Review by Matthew Schuchman
In hearing others talk about the experience of reading–or attempting to read–Cloud Atlas, there was always one common theme; “It’s very confusing at first, but if you can push yourself past the first third, the rest if highly rewarding.” Watching the nearly three hour magnum opus film based on the book–co-directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer–reflects a similar feeling of confusion throughout even its high points, but when it’s all said in done, I’m left with only one question; “So what?”
Characters from six separate stories taking place in 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144, and 2346 are interwoven into one tale of humanities twisted cycle of fate and consequence. There’s no easy way to summarize what you’ll experience if you choose to sit down and watch Cloud Atlas. A poster (maybe more) for the film contains the tagline, “Everything is connected,” and even a line from the film referencing the same theory is uttered prominently in the film’s trailer. Congratulations, you now know what Cloud Atlas is about. There’s no gratifying moment of reflective clarity near the end of the film, there’s nothing surprising to be uncovered. While there’s a high level of confusion to be had within each story, the connecting ties are clear and obvious.
A revelation, beyond my new found appreciation for Hugh Grant, a proper revelation is what Cloud Atlas is missing. To properly tell the tale as faithfully as it can to the book, its bloated 164 minute running time is warranted. Yet, the thematic spin the film has taken has been better explored by films running at 90 minutes. Cloud Atlas the film certainly needed to add a layer of substance to its stories to make it palatable in this form of media, but it’s this attention to more typically explored themes that make it weak. Amongst its religious overtones full of martyrs and JCPs (Jesus Christ Poses), Cloud Atlas seems to miss its own point. The interconnected sections that are supposed to learn from each other, creating a strong chain between them all instead break those links leaving Cloud Atlas sagging like a wet noodle.
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Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Written by: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and David Mitchell (novel)
Featuring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant
Plot: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.