Starring: Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Jim Broadbent (Hot Fuzz), Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Hugo Weaving (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

Writers/Directors: The Wachowskis (The Matrix), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run)

Runtime: 2 hours 52 minutes

Release Date: October 26 (US), February 22 (UK)

Based on the absurdly long book by David Mitchell (no, not that David Mitchell), Cloud Atlas is an absurdly long movie by the creative minds of The Matrix trilogy and Run Lola Run. Does this collage of stories and talents amount to more than the sum of its parts, or is it a jumbled mess of ideas?


The film is made up of six different stories, with elements, themes and occasionally characters crossing between them. The problem with it is that these stories are told all at the same time, cross cutting between them constantly and randomly in attempt to highlight the similarities between them. What this ends up doing instead is making the film hard to follow at times. Often, certain stories are left to gather dust for a while for far too long, leading me to say “Oh yeah, that story still exists” more often than I should be. The film’s runtime is far too long; a good half hour could have been lost easily in the cutting room. The stylistic differences between stories also cause some major tonal whiplash. One second, you’re watching Halle Berry being chased by a hitman through San Francisco. Next second, you’re watching Jim Broadbent and his wacky pals get into some hijinks at the retirement home. It just feels uneven and makes it hard to care about all these stories. That, and some of the stories just aren’t that interesting. After seeing which directors directed which sections, I discovered tended to like Tykwer’s parts more than the Wachowskis. Being a big fan of The Matrix, this is upsetting. After this, Speed Racer and The Matrix sequels, its fair to say these siblings are one-hit wonders.

The cast of this movie is full of notable stars playing multiple varied roles. Actors change age, race and even sex between stories, which can lead to both amazement and unintentional hilarity. Tom Hanks probably performs best through all of the stories, confirming that he is still one of the best actors working today. Berry is better here than she has been in a while, but I’ve never thought she was that great an actress to begin with. Broadbent is as wonderful as he is in everything, whilst Whishaw provides a great performance in his centrepiece role. The ever-threatening Hugo Weaving plays the villain in every story he’s in, but it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s in drag doing his best Nurse Ratchet impression. Pity these performances are wasted on such weak material.

Despite the story woes, at least Cloud Atlas is a technical achievement. Every story has its own visual style and flair, making them easily distinctive and easier to identify when flip-flopping around constantly. The music is beautiful and easily the best thing about the film. There has been much debate about the quality of the make-up, and I’d say it is pretty mixed. Often it’s really impressive (several times, I didn’t realise who played who until the credits), but at other points it’s just unnerving; the aforementioned Weaving in drag and Doona Bae made up to look Caucasian are the two obvious ones. I’m not saying it’s racist, it just isn’t very convincing.

Cloud Atlas is a bold and beautiful experiment, but one that fails miserably. The intentions are noble and craftsmanship accomplished, but the film is too muddled and inconsistent to leave me feeling anything other than utter confusion and disappointment.


Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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