The new film, "Cloud Atlas," is a tremendous and ambitious undertaking. It tells six interconnected stories which take place over hundreds of years. But as it switches stories, flash-forwarding and flash-backing for almost three hours, what should have been a hypnotic journey is reduced to an emotional disconnect.
As "Cloud Atlas" opens, the audience is immediately struck by the crisp and exquisite camerawork, a plus, which prevails throughout the film. And when Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia") shows up in the first scene, hopes are high. In fact, the casting is first rate, gushing with Oscar winners who include Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Jim Broadbent ("Iris") and Susan Sarandon ("Dead Man Walking").
All of the actors play numerous roles ... six for Hanks, six for Berry, five for Broadbent, four for Sarandon, six for Hugh Grant ... and the list goes on and on. To mention who they portray and at what point in history would be an exercise in futility or a novel. It’s obvious that the multi-role playing over hundreds of years is meant to be karmic.
Huge kudos go out to the phenomenally talented make-up artists who race-bend, gender-bend and create downright unrecognizable characters out of such well known actors. Until the credits roll, you won't believe your eyes.
"Cloud Atlas" is based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell. Andy and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix") and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") together write and direct this trippy indie (the most expensive on record, $100 million). Andy Wachowski explains that it's "the sum of human experience." And although the audience can easily recognize the incredible effort that these imaginative individuals have put forth to create a masterpiece, it falls short.
There are some blatent references to films such as "Soylent Green" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in the the movie but they're reduced to being corny. The script is so overly esoteric at times, one can't help but wince. And aside from Hank's and Broadbent's performances, the acting was lukewarm. Especially, from Berry who seems to have lost her cutting edge approach years ago.
There are some brilliant chase scenes, dazzling futuristic sets and laugh-out-loud moments in "Cloud Atlas." But beware, it's rife with extremely graphic and gruesome violence as well. Visually, it's an astounding piece of filmmaking.
"Cloud Atlas" purports the noble idea that we're all connected. But as it chronologically jumps all over the place, our connection to the film itself is severed. And, alas, we are left treading water in an ocean of confusion.
— Pam Nadon