RECOMMENDED: Like the novel it is based on, it can never be said that Cloud Atlas suffers from a lack of ambition. Three directors tell six interwoven stories that span centuries and involve the same souls, reincarnated and destined to keep bumping into each other throughout time and space. You know, a light-hearted romp. Lana and Andy Wachowski handle three stories, while Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer handles the other three (the three also worked together on the screenplay).
Each story features one or two main characters, played by actors who also pop-up in all the other stories playing characters across race and gender lines, and their story loosely ties to the next one in the chronological line. Somehow, with all the thematic and tone changes (Jim Broadbent‘s main story is a flat-out comedy, while Doona Bae‘s is a futuristic action-thriller that has the Wachowski stamp all over it), everything still seems to fit together pretty nicely. Perhaps that is due to the near-constant hopping across narrative lines, the general aesthetic, or the over-arching themes that run through everything. It is visually stunning, the score is fantastic, and the acting is … well … mostly-good.
The most play in all of the trailers goes to the Tom Hanks/Halle Berry connection, but where you’ll really find the stand-out performances are from Ben Whishaw and Donna Bae, each playing someone bigger than their lives, fighting to be released from the world in which they were made. The constant timeline-hopping mostly keeps you from really connecting and identifying with one character, but Whishaw and Bae do their best to break that down, and they mostly succeed.
The whole thing is an exercise in film-watching stamina (at over 160 minutes). It’s really a marvel if you allow it to be, and for that to happen, you may have to forgive some surface issues for the sake of depth of content. But it’s worth it.
Oh, also: The super-future Tom Hanks speaks in some kind of weirdo tribesman dialect that was totally jarring at first. So just … be aware.
ALSO NEW IN THEATERS: Chasing Mavericks, which we totally liked better when it was called Blue Crush; Fun Size, which is so kind of weird child/teen Halloween movie that really has us confused more than anything else; Smashed at the Ritz Bourse, this week’s total bummer where Jesse Pinkman and Ramona Flowers can’t put down the bottle, and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, where Jon Snow reunites with the Lord of Winterfell to fight some creepy demon nurse things.