Maybe if you're 20 years old and high in your dorm with friends, the platitudes in Cloud Atlas might seem profound.
Anyone else should recognize this for what it is: a bloated, pseudo-intellectual, self-indulgent slog through some facile notions.
We're all interconnected, and our souls keep meeting up with each other over the centuries, regardless of race, gender or geography. We're individual drops of water but all part of the same ocean. Deep, man.
Perhaps it all worked better on the page. Cloud Atlas comes from the novel of the same name by David Mitchell. It might have seemed unfilmable, encompassing six stories over a span of 500 years and including some primitive dialogue in a far-away future. Sibling directors Lana and Andy Wachowski have chopped up the various narratives and intercut between them out of order. The A-list actors play multiple parts across the various stories and in elaborate, laughable makeup.
Tom Hanks is a scheming doctor on a voyage in 1849, a trash-talking novelist in present-day London and a peaceful goatherd in a post-apocalyptic tribe in the 2300s. Halle Berry is a composer's white trophy wife in 1936 Scotland, an investigative reporter in 1973 San Francisco and a member of an elite society of prescients in the farthest future. Hugh Grant is a vengeful old man, then the raging leader of a band of cannibals.
Maybe the concept of transformation and connectedness despite the physical vessels we occupy felt especially resonant for the transgender Lana Wachowski, formerly Larry Wachowski. But rather than serving as a satisfying, cohesive device, the multiple-parts strategy feels like a distracting gimmick.
Cloud Atlas is ambitious, for sure, and wondrous to look at, but totally ineffective from an emotional perspective.
What: Cloud Atlas
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant
Directed by: Lana and Andy Wachowski
Running time: 172 minutes
Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and drug use