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.


TL/DR: An okay movie that I wanted to like more than I did. Very esoteric and out there – though not on that same “what the hell did I just watch?” level as, say, Vanilla Sky or What Dreams May Come? Good special effects and great acting, but save it for a rental.

Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Doona Bae, Keith David

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.”

The Wachowski siblings have never been shy of producing films that are huge, in terms of budget, special effects, scope, plot or all of the above. Cloud Atlas is no exception to this rule, other than that they added a third director to their vision for this film, Tom Tykwer. Don’t worry, I’d never heard of him either. The only thing he’s done that I know – and that only third-hand – is Run Lola Run.

I try to go into every movie that I watch for the first time with at least mostly reasonable expectations. That way, I’m not disappointed, and still have the capability of being wowed by truly great filmmaking. With Cloud Atlas, I knew going in that it was going to be a bit of a mind-bender, an experiment of sorts in moviemaking, what with three directors and most of the actors playing several roles each. I hoped for something that had me leaving the theater amazed at how all of life was interconnected and repercussions ripple throughout time.

I hoped for that. I didn’t get it. Not for lack of trying, though. The movie tries hard to show us how one life can have an effect on others, both forward and backward, in some sort of ethereal “wheel of time” kind of way, but it never really gets there. I wasn’t confused by the switches in timelines, though I know many people will be, but in the end I was just left not caring about any of them. Perhaps if more of the story had been allowed to develop in each of them – a tough deal at nearly 3 hours already – or there’d been fewer, it might’ve worked. It wouldn’t have worked as two movies, though.

I will say this: the cast was great. They took a confusing, disconnected movie and acted the hell out of their parts. Even those I’d never seen before, like Bae, Whishaw and Sturgess were great. Hanks was his usual Oscar-worthy self, making me believe he was the six (6!) characters he was portraying and giving them each enough differentiation to make them distinguishable from each other. That’s no mean feat, and each of the main characters pulled it off with what seemed like effortless ease.

I might pick up the book, just to see if I get something out of it that the movie didn’t show, but probably not. In the end, I don’t feel like I wasted my time, but I won’t be buying it and I doubt I’ll even rent it. Once was enough for me for this, which normally rates 2 stars, but the phenomenal acting from Hanks et al was good enough to pull it up another notch.

3 stars: I liked it, but I’m not buying it and likely won’t rent it anytime soon.