Cloud Atlas is almost as hard to review as it is to watch. How do you go about explaining and analyzing a film that you don’t fully understand (especially when you feel the filmmakers involved aren’t particularly interested in having the film clearly defined anyway)?
So what’s it about? Hell, I haven’t the slightest clue. The film cross-cuts several different stories from several different time periods (some old, some present, some future) regularly using the same actors to play a multitude of roles. Most of the sequences involve Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, who play characters who usually, somehow, come into each other’s lives. Some of the sequences make perfect sense (or about as much sense as anything in the film), while others are completely opaque in their desire for understanding.
Other common faces are Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Xun Zhou and on and on and on. And here’s where the review shifts to good. Most every single person in this movie play a multitude of roles, and everyone, from the A-listers to the day players, are fantastic. Without going into specific detail (because that would frankly occupy too much space), Hanks hasn’t been this good since Road to Perdition. Likewise Berry since Things We Lost in the Fire (which is a decent film that contains two flawless, horribly overlooked performances).
Anyway. One of the things Cloud Atlas gets right is casting. Certainly. Another thing is cinematography, and, well, hell, most every other technical aspect that goes into making an epic motion picture. In a rarity of rarities, the film has three directors. The Wachowski Siblings (who changed the game with The Matrix) were responsible for a handful of the film’s storylines, while Tom Tykwer (who changed the game with Run Lola Run) helmed the rest. The Wachowskis and Tykwer ran different crews entirely, only sharing the cast. And then somehow, rather miraculously, Alexander Berner cut them all together to deliver a… what?
Fact is, I can’t in good conscience call Cloud Atlas a seamless work of moving art (in the way I might The Tree of Life). I spent many minutes during Cloud Atlas’ near three hours bored and disinterested. My mind wandered, the time was checked, and I begged for a fleeting sense of coherent closure (even when I knew there wouldn’t be one). Many will agree with me, and plenty won’t. That’s fair. There’s no one right way to look at this movie. It’s a feel-wheeling puzzle that is continually easy on the eyes and taxing on the brain. It’s also about as original as movies come, for better or worse. B-