Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

The Wachowski’s return to the big screen with Cloud Atlas – a movie with an incredible premise that should be able to hold together a three hour movie. However, some of the acting and writing makes for a more frustrating film than a philosophical one.

(Zac also reviewed Cloud Atlas this weekend here. Check it out after reading Alan’s take.)

Cloud Atlas’ premise is the one thing I found about this movie to be incredibly thought provoking for the right reasons – that we are all connected through time. No matter what race, age, or gender, out spirits go into other bodies once we have left another. This is shown during the movie with a comet birthmark that the seven (yes, seven) main characters all share with each other. The birthmark is only brought up once, as one of the side characters notices it as it was as well on his ex-lover, but the mark shows up from time period to time period.

Which brings me to my biggest problem that Cloud Atlas has: reminding me that everything is connected. There comes a point in the movie where some of the dialogue can get incredibly repetitive and cheesy, especially when it came to things kind of folding on top of one another. Take the Luisa Ray (one of Halle Berry’s six characters she plays) storyline – there are unbelievable moments where some secondary character would ask some entirely random question that connects that story to the overall premise. It got to the point where I was questioning if all three hours of the movie were going to be like this.

It wasn’t, thankfully, as some of it’s best stories comes from not mentioning the premise at all. The three stories that come to mine are the Robert Frobisher (played by Ben Wishaw), Timothy Cavendish (played by the oh so charming Jim Broadbent), and the Sonmi-451 (played by Doona Bae) tales. The Timothy Cavendish storyline brings in some much needed humor to it all, bringing in some rather big laughs for such a serious movie. Robert Frobisher’s love story between his lover and his music is rather enthralling, and although it doesn’t get as much screen time as some of the others, it is still one of the most heartfelt sections of the movie as a whole. AND THEN THERE’S SONMI-451. Her story of breaking out from her demoralizing job and becoming a martyr for change is an awe-inspiring journey, which leaves you rooting for her (and her overall philosophy) until the very end.

The other three didn’t really hit the mark for me. Two of them “starred” Halle Berry and Tom Hanks, whose lines throughout both of their section come out absolutely atrociously (one of which they weren’t supposed to speak clear English, the other was just due to bad writing). The last one was Jim Sturgess’ chance to shine, but only felt like filler (I don’t believe his story connected to ANYTHING).

Some liner notes to be taken in; the score is absolutely fantastic. With one of the six stories actually focusing on music, I’m glad to hear some actually beautiful work getting put into the movie, rather than the same-old type of sound. And the make-up job is rather hit or miss. Sometimes, I feel like you can see a latex mask that they put on some of the actors, which really makes that character fall completely flat. But when it works (when it has nothing to do about changing race or wrinkles), it shines. Who knew Hugh Grant could make for such a violent barbarian leader?

So if half of the film is great, and one half is mediocre, where does that leave you? It leaves you in an awful state while leaving the theaters. Of course, the biggest talking point SHOULD be the premise, or even the visuals (which were pretty stellar). No, the acting, length, and the overall cheese that made you roll your eyes is what was struck up the most. I highly recommend seeing it with a group of friends that can sit and think critically about the theme, and dissect the movie accordingly. If you bring friends that more reflect the latter, you will just become frustrated at how mediocre a big picture like this really was. There is plenty to learn here, but nothing seems to be gained.

Final Grade: C-

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