Cloud Atlas

‘The Hours’ for Dudes


Review written by Robert Patrick

Starring: Tom Hanks, Jim Sturgess

Cloud Atlas is a mosaic of ideas and ethereal existentialism – Imagine Southland Tales as told by David Lean. A warbly narrative slap-chopped by kinetic editing and sterile looking set designs, The Wachowski siblings – plus Tom Tykwer – create a phantasmagoria of images that look something like Mel Gibson’s Apacalypto being ratcheted over the head with a Svedka Vodka commercial. Tom Hanks dons everything from Mike Lowell-like goatees to fake teeth to a shock of white hair in his attempt to play multiple characters – a philosophical Peter Sellers of sorts. When it isn’t zooming around on flying motorcycles that make Jetson’s noises, Cloud Atlas is a big, soppy allagory for human connectivity.

Almost every thespian in the film plays two or more characters, to add to the grandiose theme of “everyone is connected; life is everyone”. Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving even play Asian men (something that even Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s would cringe over). There are times, after seeing Jim Broadbent stumble around in his third different beard of the movie, that you wonder if this Wachowski opus is an acting reel or an actual film. Cloud Atlas is more Icarus than any movie can ever claim to be. Hauling an astronomical budget on its overzealous shoulders, the time-spanning vignettes are rife with everything from wonky prosthetics to moth-eaten shawls (some of the costume design looks like recycled Matrix garb).

The didactic film goes on and on for an interminable three-hours, pushing everything from adages on love to expositions on death. Before the climax, though, we get to see Hugo Weaving wearing an outfit straight out of Alice Cooper’s wardrobe, and Keith David looking like he came straight out of the Hughes brothers’ Dead Presidents. Oh, and because it’s a Wachowski film, there had to be a subplot with bullet dodging. After hour two, Cloud Atlas begins to feel like Minority Report tenderized with Stargate. The lighting of the film revolves around washed out blues and tin-grays, giving a mechanical look to the proceedings. The movie is so indulgent that the film’s score actually swells as slow motion shots of vases and ornate plates break. Basically, impenetrable patience is a card that has to be in your deck to sit through Cloud Atlas, if you want to live without succombing to its ambling weaknesses, as it bobs and trips through time and space and pretentiousness and ellipsis after ellipsis. Many critics have lauded Cloud Atlas as ambitious, but so was the Hindenburg.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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