Acceptable Targets: A majority of the film's villains include racists, homophobes, corrupt executives and politicians, and cannibalistic savages.
Award Snub: It was completely ignored by the Academy. Many thought it should have at least been nominated for Make-Up, given how all the actors are transformed, or Editing for the way they cut back and forth between different stories. The score was also highly acclaimed, some even going so far to say Atlas had the best soundtrack of the year.
Complete Monster: Bill Smoke from the Luisa Rey story is a psychotic hitman who shows little regret for anything he does. Hired by Lloyd Hooks to kill anyone who knows about his companys nuclear reactor conspiracy, Smoke sets out to murder anybody who gets in his way. He kills a much older Rufus Sixsmith and makes it look like a suicide, and almost kills an unaware Luisa, backing off when she ends up not discovering him. When a man named Isaac Sachs gives Luisa a copy of the nuclear report Sixsmith tried to give her, Smoke kills Sachs by blowing up the plane hes in, along with the people inside it, later attempting to murder Luisa by running her car off a bridge. After discovering that Luisa survived the crash, he tries to murder her again, along with her partner, Joe Napier. Before his death, Smoke shoots an innocent Mexican womans dog and calls her a "stupid fucking wetback" for not telling him where Luisa and Joe are.
Cult Classic: The film appears to be heading this way, judging how it debuted at number one the week it was released on video and the more positive reactions that come from audiences than critics.
He Really Can Act: Some people feel that Hugh Grant plays the same character over and over again in some of the movies he's in. There's a very good chance that those same exact folks are also utterly shocked to see him play the cannibal in the post-apocalyptic segment. Even Grant admitted he was having a lot of fun playing the roles he did.
The Kona are a tribe of all-male lawless marauders in a post-apocalyptic future who notably wear war paint that makes their faces resemble skulls. Are we talking about the cannibal tribes of Hawaii or the War Boys?
LGBT Fanbase: The relationship between Frobisher and Sixsmith. For example, type in Cloud Atlas on tumblr and about half of the results will be those two.
Slow-Paced Beginning: Though the first twenty minutes or so of the film are hard to follow, it becomes easier to comprehend the non-linear stories after you get to know all of the protagonists.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Big time. The movie (and book) as a whole is a call for human beings to treat each other with more compassion, but each segment denounces a specific evil:
The Ewing segment is a massive Take That! against colonialism and social darwinism.
The Frobisher segment is a battle of wills between a villainous Straw Nihilist (who produces art because he wants to be remembered as a great man) and a sympathetic The Anti-Nihilist (who produces art because it's his way to keep the darkness at bay).
The Luisa Rey segment is a criticism of crooked corporate capitalism and sexism.
The Cavendish segment criticizes ageism.
The Somni segment is an epic Take That! against consumer capitalism.
The Zachry segment is the last stand of civilization against barbarism.
Special Effect Failure: In spite of some very good instances of makeup, the attempts to change the races of several actors runs straight into Uncanny Valley and is highly distracting. There's some amount of contention between critics over whether it was intentional or not.
Both 'future' segments, but especially Sonmi~451's.
Some of the makeup effects are amazing. While part of the point of re-using actors is for the audience to notice that the same people keep popping up in various incarnations throughout time, the makeup can make it difficult to tell who plays whom at times. Unfortunately, the Special Effect Failure of some makeup takes a lot away from the overall achievement.
All what Adam wants is to go back home to his wife, but is sadly under attack from a nasty parasite and the Deadly Doctor who is trying to kill him.
Rufus Sixsmith. In the 1936 story, not only is he an active participant in a same-sex relationship (no doubt very much taboo at the time) with Frobisher, but he has to deal with his lover somewhat stringing him along at various times. And yet he stays very much loyal to Frobisher up through the point where he arrives to visit him, only to find he has just committed suicide. Then in the 1973 story, still very much haunted by his old love, he provides Luisa Rey with an expose on the corruption at the nuclear power plant where he works. He is then promptly assassinated by a hit man hired by the plant.
Timothy Cavendish gets abused by gangsters, his older brother and a sadistic nursing home but because his tale is Played for Laughs, he falls between this and a Butt-Monkey.
Sonmi~451 was birthed right from the get go to be a simple servant and nothing more. She witnesses multiple deaths of friends, is on the receiving end of sexual abuse during her previous life at Papa Song's, is imprisoned and interrogated by the Government and by the end, gets executed for her troubles. However, due to her perseverance through her tale, she evolves from this to an Iron Woobie.
Zachry is constantly haunted by the death of his brother-in-law, his visions of Old Georgie and the ruthless Kona Tribe. And when he sees the devastation of his tribe at the hands of the Kona, especially Rose, all he can do is fall to his knees and weep.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: "Disneys" becoming a generic term for movies by 2144 is a lot less funny now that there's greater concern over Disney's unprecedented dominance of the film industry after its numerous massive acquisitions (Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Fox, etc.) since the book's publication in 2004.
Genius Bonus: The name of the music piece Robert Frobisher creates is called the Cloud Atlas Sextet. A sextet, according to The Other Wiki is "a formation containing exactly six members. It is commonly associated with vocal or musical instrument groups, but can be applied to any situation where six similar or related objects are considered a single unit." The novel is told through the Point of View of six different people.