2.5 / 5.0
At its peak, Cloud Atlas feels as if the cast simply got together for a jam sesh where they alternated between a diverse list of characters, experimenting and testing their range. In this regard, the film has many strong moments. Captivating performances, especially from Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and Doona Bae, are paired with beautiful visuals, and well crafted practical and special effects.
Unfortunately for Cloud Atlas, it is not just an A-list actors’ jam session, but instead a feature length (and then some) film. As such, it really falls flat, fumbling the 6 concurring stories, jolting the viewer to and fro as it violently whisks them through the time-space continuum. The film was a slog, disorientating and distracting from its strengths, and substantially weakening the thematic payoff at the end.
Now it must be said that this task of fitting 6 distinct arcs into one film is an onerous one that may have turned out much worse in the hands of less visionary filmmakers. That being said, the Wachowskis would have been much better served employing a narrative structure closer to the Coen brothers’ Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which presents each arc fully before proceeding to the next, allowing the viewer to make the thematic connections them self. This would have been more inline with David Mitchell’s novel, which only cut each of the first five stories once, and presented the 6th unbroken.
Instead, Cloud Atlas mutilates each arc with more cuts than I could count, before force feeding the connecting theme and overarching philosophy down the viewer’s throat, like Dr. Goose delivering poison to Adam Ewing. It left a bad taste in my mouth, as if the film had a contempt for the viewer, seeing them as stupid and shallow, unable or unwilling to understand the film’s theme unless it was violently shoved in their face.
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