Release date: October 26, 2012
Everything is connected—our lives and the people we share them with are all bonded to each other. “Cloud Atlas” is an ambitious movie that aims high for an existential connect the dots that spans hundreds of years, trying to show that we are bonded to someone and nothing, not even death can break that eternal bond.
Based on the ambitious novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” is the latest from the Wachowski—err—siblings. The movie begins with an aged and battled scarred Tom Hanks telling a story in the year 2346 about bonds and destiny. We are then propelled back to 1936 then to 1973 then to 2012 then to 1849 then to 2144. This goes on for nearly three hours as the movie introduces characters in each time period before whisking off to another time period, bouncing back and forth from narrative to narrative slowly and meticulously weaving them together. Take a notebook and an astronaut pen to keep score of who is who in what time period.
The movie is interesting for almost the entire running time but it takes at least an hour before it starts making any kind of sense. Even then it doesn’t truly connect. It gets weird and existential and theoretical and sometimes a little goofy and sappy as it introduces a number of ideas about fate and destiny and our true connection to each other that might sit well with those who appreciated the end of “Lost”. This is the problem with the movie. There is so much good going for it that it becomes maddening in the moments that don’t find the right groove.
Across the board, the acting is top notch. Everyone from the always reliable Tom Hanks to the inconsistent Halle Berry to the underrated Jim Sturgess deliver emotional performances playing a number of different characters spanning across the hundreds of years covered in this flick. Be sure to stick through the end credits to see who plays whom because some of the answers will come as a surprise.
While all of the stories connect in some major or minor way, not all of them work. Team directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Twykwer, “Cloud Atlas” tries very hard to be a masterpiece but along the way there are long stretches that are either confusing or just not as interesting as the filmmakers would have you believe. That being said, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and there are brilliant moments that will certainly stick with you. However, despite these moments of brilliance, there is far too much that doesn’t quite gel. Individually, each story may have made its own spellbinding movie but mashed up and intercut, some of it sticks and some of it will leave you wanting more– or less.
“Cloud Atlas”, like nearly all of the Wachowski’s flicks is going to leave audience members divided. Some people are going to love it for it’s pure ambition and it’s unrelenting beauty but others are just not going to be able to get involved with a movie that borders on attention deficit disorder. The film builds and builds to a payoff that never comes and some of the segments don’t quite connect the way either the book did or the filmmakers hoped it would.
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