The only thing that the critics have been able to agree on when it comes to “Cloud Atlas,” the new film from Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, is its ambition. Whether it is successful? Not so much.
The six interconnected stories, featuring actors in multiple rolls have won over just as many as they turned off, but no one can deny the impressiveness of the scale. This is what the critics are saying about “Cloud Atlas.”
” ’Cloud Atlas’ is actually six short narratives set in different time periods, like a double of ’The Hours’ or ’Intolerance’ plus two. For extra flavor, the stories are ostensibly different genres, too — historical adventure, costume drama, mystery, Miramax-y comedy, space opera and ’Lost’-like heavy allegory. There’s a rep theater’s worth of actors playing different roles, with the same actor having similar characteristics in each of the sequences.” — Jordan Hoffman, Film.com
On Understanding the Movie
“Even as I was watching ’Cloud Atlas’ the first time, I knew I would need to see it again. Now that I’ve seen it the second time, I know I’d like to see it a third time — but I no longer believe repeated viewings will solve anything. To borrow Churchill’s description of Russia, ’it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.’ It fascinates in the moment. It’s getting from one moment to the next that is tricky.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Zachry the goatherd is played by Tom Hanks, sporting facial tattoos and speaking in a futuristic pidgin. (In Zachry’s language, ’aye’ means ’yes,’ ’cog’ means ’know’ and ’true-true’ means ’very true indeed.’) Mr. Hanks also plays, among other roles, a scientist who aids the journalist’s investigation, a London gangster and a 19th-century quack attending to Adam Ewing, the ailing South Seas traveler. (That poor fellow is played by Jim Sturgess.) The muckraking journalist, Luisa Rey, is Halle Berry. She also appears as Meronym, who visits Zachry’s island as part of a delegation of technologically advanced researchers. And she is almost unrecognizable as Jocasta Ayrs, married to the temperamental maestro, played by Jim Broadbent. He is, elsewhere, a ship’s captain and the luckless publisher Timothy Cavendish.
“Mr. Broadbent is, as ever, delightful, and Ben Whishaw is perfect as the witty and passionate Frobisher. Hugh Grant indulges in some sly, vulgar villainy, with impressive prosthetic teeth, and Susan Sarandon floats through a few scenes trailing mists of love and weary wisdom. As Sonmi, the South Korean actress Doona Bae is a haunting, somber presence.” — A. O. Scott, The New York Times
The Final Word
” ’Cloud Atlas’ is a cornily enthralling sci-fi kaleidoscope. Adapted from the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, it tells six stories over the course of nearly three hours, and most of them would come off as fairly conventional on their own. But when you slice them up, swirl them around, and hold them up to the light, the design of what you’re seeing is hypnotic, and it wires you into the film.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Check out everything we’ve got on “Cloud Atlas.”