Cloud Atlas Movie Review

Based on David Mitchell’s popular novel, CLOUD ATLAS is an extremely ambitious film following several characters throughout different historical time periods spanning from as early as 1850 to the distant future.  Using an all-star cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent to present several thematic issues about the impact individual’s choices have on the world, the film never quite holds the epic or emotional punch that one might hope from such a grand presentation.

Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas

Along with Hanks, Berry and Broadbent is Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Hugh Grant, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw and Susan Sarandon who all play multiple characters throughout every period presented.  It would take much longer than anyone would care to fully describe all the elements and characters each actor plays in CLOUD ATLAS, but I think it can be simplified by breaking down and focusing on six characters and their storylines.

Bae Doona in Cloud Atlas

Adam (Jim Sturgess) an American struggling to do the right thing by protecting a stowaway slave during his journey home on the South Pacific.  Robert (Ben Whishaw), a homosexual musician serving as an apprentice to a famous composer during the 1930’s but tragically having his talent oppressed.  Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) a journalist on the verge of exposing a dark conspiracy involving a nuclear plant in the 1970’s. Timothy (Jim Broadbent) a publisher during the present day who humorously goes from trouble with the mob to trouble with escaping from an old folks home.  Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) a genetically engineered waitress in a futuristic Korea discovering choices and her right to live for the first time.  Zachry (Tom Hanks), a tribesman fighting for survival after the collapse of society during a post apocalypse.

Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas

All these stories partly affect the others and parallel the bond between doing the right thing, fighting for what you believe, finding love and spiritual reincarnation.  Unfortunately, these themes are repetitive, in your face and uninspiring.  While there are moments that are interesting and even humorous, the overall film is terribly underwhelming and quite frankly, a little bland for being on such a grand scale.

Directed by Tom Tyker (RUN LOLA RUN), Andy and Lana Wachowki (THE MATRIX trilogy, SPEEDRACER), a group of directors that have pushed the envelope in filmmaking and should be commended for their ambition.  Props should also be handed to the editor who wove the storylines quite fluently as nearly every genre of film was represented including drama, science-fiction, comedy and suspense.  The problem is none of them were done particularly well.  I specifically enjoyed the Asian futuristic segments, but even that lacked anything exceptional to truly grasp onto as an impactful film.

Cloud Atlas

While it was fun seeing actors play so many different roles, it was more of a gimmick than anything of substance.  The actors did well with what they had, particularly Hanks who was able to turn some goofy dialogue and silly makeup into some genuinely emotional scenes.  But these moments were few and fleeting as the over-the-top makeup and characters felt uneven with the overall dramatic story telling CLOUD ATLAS was trying to achieve.  The disappointment from the lackluster presentation is only heightened by the nearly three hour run time.

For many audience members, this may be the most anticipated film of the year.  Sadly, CLOUD ATLAS doesn’t come through and I believe should be skipped by the casual movie goer and ultimately be forgotten when award season comes along.

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