Soundtrack Review: Cloud Atlas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Original Score Composed and Produced by: Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil

Release Date: Digital download Oct. 23, 2012, physical CD Nov. 6, 2012

Format: Audio CD and digital download

Number of Discs: 1 (23 tracks, approx. 1.2 hours)

Label: WaterTower Music

Summary: WaterTower Music will release the Cloud Atlas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack at all digital retailers on October 23, with a physical CD release to follow on November 6. The original music was composed by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil. Tykwer also shares screenwriting and directing credits with filmmakers Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, in bringing David Mitchell’s best-selling novel to the big screen in the October 26th release Cloud Atlas.

Music is a central part of the Cloud Atlas story, particularly in one sequence of the film’s narrative involving a young composer who struggles to complete his life’s work, entitled The Cloud Atlas Sextet. This musical theme then recurs throughout the film and helps to connect multiple threads of action together as a single story moving through time.

In the powerful and inspiring epic Cloud Atlas, drama, mystery, action and enduring love thread through a single story that unfolds in multiple timelines over the span of 500 years. Characters meet and reunite from one life to the next. Born and reborn. As the consequences of their actions and choices impact one another through the past, the present and the distant future, one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Tom Tykwer is one of Germany’s most exciting filmmakers and a triple threat (writer, director, composer). In 1999, he made his international breakthrough with the adrenaline-fueled Run Lola Run, which, as well as directing, he also wrote and co-composed with Klimek and Heil. The film was both a commercial and critical success, going on to become the most successful German film of that year. He followed this with The Princess and the Warrior, and then with his first English-language film, Heaven. In 2006, Tykwer co-wrote and directed Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. His next film was the sleek thriller The International. Most recently he completed the German language film 3 (Drei).

Reinhold Heil was born in a small town in West Germany and trained to become a classical pianist. While studying at the Berlin Music Academy, Heil became Nina Hagen’s keyboardist, co-writer, and co-producer and for the next few years honed his craft in what became the legendary Nina Hagen Band. After Hagen left the group, the remaining band members formed Spliff, one of Germany’s most successful rock bands of the 1980s.

Born in Australia, Johnny Klimek paid his dues in a series of gritty pub bands before migrating to Berlin to form the ‘80s pop ensemble “The Other Ones” with his siblings. He segued into the club music scene on his own in the ’90s, and, out of the latter emerged his creative marriages to both Heil and Tykwer.

Among Klimek and Heil’s credits are Killer Elite, the TV series Awake, One Hour Photo, the acclaimed TV series Deadwood, and the theme song for Without a Trace. Up next for the duo is I, Frankenstein, starring Bill Nighy and Aaron Eckhart, slated for release in February.

This is an achingly beautiful soundtrack. Having not yet seen the movie, I listened to it unaffected by anything other than a general awareness of the storyline, not much more than what’s contained in the summary above and in the clips posted elsewhere on But it is cinematic, symphonic, and simply, utterly, exquisitely beautiful.

It is one of those soundtracks that makes it easy to imagine all sorts of stories, or at the very least makes you want to see what this one is actually about. There are a few tracks that lend themselves to futuristic settings, some that are mystical, one track that feels comedic, and another that feels a bit Mission Impossible-esque. It’s a grand range. There are chases, magic, love, loss, fear, exhilaration, acceptance, grief, joy, and choirs. But best of all, it’s all articulated perfectly.

I need to note that in the wrong hands the opening theme, which is picked up periodically throughout the entire soundtrack, could easily have become cloying or twee or sappy, but happily this hazard was avoided entirely. Emotional scores are becoming more acceptable to me, but unless you are exceptionally cynical, or in the alternative have recently been through a horrible heartbreak of some sort, the opening theme isn’t heavily emotional; rather, it feels clean and full of potential in its simplicity, somewhat delicate around the edges, but strong enough to be remembered and relied upon throughout the score.

When introduced by a piano near the beginning of the soundtrack, the theme is somewhat reminiscent of some of Michael Giacchino’s beautiful, spare piano lines in Lost, but the Cloud Atlas theme is more hopeful, more invigorating. And once it reaches its apex in the end titles, it is absolutely otherworldly.

It’s interesting to note that, although three composers wrote this score, you’ll not hear three different styles. This score must have been a completely collaborative effort; it is varied and complex but it is also seamless. Likewise the orchestra is rich and balanced and faultless.

And wow, that final track. Just wow.

On to the specifics. The accompanying booklet is a 7-page standard format, with one page devoted to the track list, another devoted to credits, and the rest to full page screenshots from the movie. The credits are vital, obviously, and reading the titles of the tracks is interesting. Otherwise, not knowing the movie, I can’t speak to the importance of the screenshots.

Honestly, it’s fine but it really doesn’t matter. Get the cd or get the digital download, but just make sure to get it. And once you do, play it on an excellent sound system and/or use headphones or earbuds. This soundtrack employs a full traditional orchestra, alternating with solo piano, with the usual accompanying dramatic variances in dynamics, so earbuds/headphones are highly recommended to allow a full appreciation of the subtleties.

Exquisite. A rich, full musical journey, an absolute delight, a symphonic treasure. I completely love this.

I give Cloud Atlas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Five Out of Five Stars.



Cloud Atlas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available from Amazon right now. Here’s the link:

Cloud Atlas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Tyker/Klimek/Heil) (Audio CD)

List Price: $11.98
New From: $33.94 USD In Stock
Used from: $6.35 USD In Stock

Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for