Review: Cloud Atlas

Although new film Cloud Atlas, directed by the Matrix‘s Wachowski siblings, is fantastically done, are the genre-spanning stories too much for cinema to handle?


Max Parker


Cloud Atlas is more than just one film; it is six genre-spanning stories woven together to create a saga that at its highest points impresses, yet stumbles and confuses along the way.


Ranging from a dystopian future, set in Neo-Seoul, where fast food waitresses are cloned; to a 19th century ship battling the Pacific Ocean, Cloud Atlas cannot be confined to one style. It moves from romance to sci-fi to comedy at will, giving you little time to get your bearings.


A fine cast


It’s a journey through time, looking at how simple actions can affect the future and how even the smallest detail will be felt somewhere. For instance, one man’s autobiography becomes a film, watched by someone else many years later.


Directed by Matrix veterans, Andy and Lana Wachowski along with Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas has a fine cast, each portraying a different character.


Tom Hanks for instance plays a nuclear scientist, a hotel manager and even an Irish gangster turned writer. While his Irish accent is poor, this scene is one of the oddest moments in the film.


Stand-out performance


The stand out performance, though, is Ben Whishaw, who recently shone as Q in Skyfall, with his portrayal of a talented musician whose future is ripped from him. This, alongside his relationships with James D’Arcy and Jim Broadbent, is both moving and sad. Whishaw looks to have a great future in the industry judging from his recent performances.


The story switching is jarring


Subtle sounds and themes bring the stories together, a heartbeat or the sound of crashing water joins the beginning of one and the end of another which makes it flow. It is nicely done and after you notice it for the first time it becomes more rewarding as the film goes on.


However, its constant story switching is jarring. You just get used to one and it’s gone. Some last only a few minutes and when the film comes back to them it takes time to remember what went before. This coupled with some of the stories being quite weak detracts from the film’s strengths.


It is a shame – the Neo-Seoul tale is fantastic and thought provoking, but when it is cut between a group of elderly people escaping an evil retirement home, the tension and intrigue is lost.


Hard to recommend


Cloud Atlas is just far too long. It borders on three hours and even with the six stories it feels like there is not enough content to warrant the running time and some parts do drag on.


It seems hard to recommend it. Too many bad points detract from the positives and it weakens the film as a whole.


Cloud Atlas is out February 22.


Rating: 4/10

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