When a filmmaker decides to cut together an almost six minute trailer, you can safely assume that they are hoping to have created an epic. Combine that with the fact that the trailer for Cloud Atlas reveals the film will be tracking multiple storylines happening over multiple time periods [6 of them actually], you know the writers and directors are reaching for something massive.
This is a film about the clash between those who resolutely believe that survival of the fittest means everyone for themselves and those who believe we are to live a life willing to sacrifice and strive for equality. ‘Eat or be eaten’ vs. ‘we’re all connected.’ Egocentric vs. worldcentric.
The battle is not portrayed in a non-partisan manner. This is a film with a point of view, a bias, a hope, and a dream. While Cloud Atlas unfolds, we move from era to era, from film genre to film genre, and watch basically the same storyline unfold in each place. Those with power are seeking to stay in power and do so by diminishing anything that threatens the structures that keep them there. As is repeated throughout the film, the weak are meat and the strong will eat.
But under the boot of those in power comes a sound beyond a mere cry for help. There is a hope that the counter-narrative being squashed by the strong will someday take root en masse. There is an underlying dream of a future when the world will not be divided between the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor, the privileged and the oppressed, the strong and the weak. There is a commitment to telling the next generation that there is another way to live, even if few are doing it. There is a belief in what could be, but is not yet.
In some way, Cloud Atlas is the follow-up that The Matrix deserved, had the franchise not been stretched to its breaking point (i.e. The Matrix Reloaded). Once again the Wachowski brothers have brought to the screen a narrative that calls for people to enter the struggle taking place in our world—a struggle between competing ways of seeing the world and understanding how and why it all works as it does. A complex storyline reduced to its simplest message, Cloud Atlas portrays the storm created when differing worldviews meet like cold and hot fronts.
The question becomes, which is the weaker system?