Commentary
5:16 am
Thu November 1, 2012

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a movie obviously made by professionals who know their work.  It moves pretty fast and looks spectacular, and except for the Flash Gordon transportation devices, it doesn’t look like any other movie I can think of.  Even the mountain Halle Berry and Tom Hanks climb doesn’t look like any mountain I have seen, on screen or off, and the futuristic sets for the future-but pre-apocalyptic sequence bear only generic resemblance to other futuristic sets.  Makeup people have certainly earned their pay as they disguise Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent and others into as much as six different roles, in some cases absolutely unrecognizable.  And those in charge of stunts and big orange explosions try to do original things even with them.  But...

Cloud Atlas has six different plot lines in six different time periods over a span of 500 years, and they are snipped into little bits, some only a minute or so long, none longer than a sequence in an ordinary movie, many only as long as a scene.  As scenes or sequences, the bits are in every case effective.  But the segues linking them form no significant pattern, being too often based on mere visual patterns or even puns, such as linking the underground railroad of slave days to a modern railroad train.  Even without the distraction of trying to identify the cast, Cloud Atlas would be difficult to follow as a whole, and reviews and conversations I have encountered indicate that nobody has had much more luck than I did doing that.  Even at almost three hours, Cloud Atlas has little time for character development, and only Jim Broadbent comes across as more than a cipher.  Watching it is like playing an obscure video game with plots and characters.  Not that a lot of movies aren’t like that these days.