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Cloud Atlas

I’m really not sure what to make of it, so I’m a bit stuck on how to properly review it. Without question, I was lost more than once, and it seems a major mistake on my part to have not watched this in a solo sitting. It is highly likely that I will give “Cloud Atlas” another go at a later date. It’s not exactly elephantine, but still it’s far from nimble. Immediate points are given for its visionary ambition—it sure is something to look at. And it has something to say, but what I pulled from the screenplay seems a bit gooey and like mystical psychobabble. But I’m trying to be fair. Am I missing something? After all, the directing team is a talented bunch(the trio wrote the screenplay too). Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” was an absolutely brilliant rush of a movie that easily placed among my Top Ten Films of 1999. And the Wachowskis have a worldwide cult following from their “Matrix” series, although for my money the best thing they ever co-directed was 1996’s “Bound”. So, I sat up and took notice immediately upon learning that this was the triumverate that was bringing “Cloud Atlas” to life on the screen(it’s based on a 2004 novel) . But how much is it the responsibility of the filmmakers to make this thing cohesive for the audience it is trying to reach? Some amount, at least. And I’ve personally breezed through some of the most “difficult” films of directors like David Lynch and David Cronenberg. But when does a film get so convoluted that it has to be considered a failing? There are six different timelines involved here and Tom Hanks and Halle Berry play different roles in all of them. And so do Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant. They must have had a ball sinking their teeth into these disparate parts—but most of us will need a score card to keep track. My favorite bit involves Hanks as a gangster who writes a book and proceeds to throw its harshest critic over a balcony and to his death at the launch party. That infamous scenario makes the publication an instant best seller! But that spectacle comes early on, and the film runs nearly 3 hours. There is also a post-apocalyptic timeline of the plot that has Hanks and Berry speaking like Jar-Jar Binks from “The Phantom Menace” that plays and sounds awfully embarrassing. What works on the page doesn’t always translate well to the screen. There are also some wonderful actors in this that aren’t necessarily in all of the various timelines, but still play multiple roles. Names like Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Keith David. You’ll be employing a “can-you-spot-them” game throughout some of this venture. But I never found myself pondering “Cloud Atlas” for too long after all was said and done. It appeared that it came down to a fortune cookie philosophy of “be careful what you choose in this life, because it will have repercussions in the next”. Okay, whatever. Plus, there are some bad make-up jobs displayed all through the movie’s device of time-jumping. None more disconcerting than watching various white and black actors dressed-up and CGI’d to appear Asian. There is an attempt at giving this all the proper balance, but I’m not certain that that’s a palatable excuse for it working or not. So, for the scattered areas where this film did manage to sing, I count just as many where it was tone-deaf. That being said, there is no way I can recommend it. But I am willing to give it a second shot and hopefully find that I missed something on the first go-round. Fair?    Grade:  C (for the time being)

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