This three hour omnibus interweaves six stories, some of which we may have been told before as The Island or Phantom of the Opera or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s not clear whether the stories are linked by history, reincarnation, or just Cloud Atlas‘s multitasking cast members. By the middle of the film the narrative disparity looks like its starting to go somewhere, but it doesnt arrive there before the end, which is disappointing as by then it’s been a long wait.
The tales have their moments, where the flames do catch, but they’re too little too late and they’re boiling water rather than forming a bonfire. The threads line up parallel but never converge into anything significantly greater than the sum of their parts. The makeup department has a lot to do and is overstretched, as are some of the cast. The production is technically and stylistically unremarkable; again disappointing as that has been the Wachowski’s main offering heretofore.
This is a movie youre expecting to, and probably will, only watch once. So you might consider the following a not unfamiliar warning from the Wachowskis themselves:(After the premiere at Toronto), Andy Wachowski stated “(a)s soon as (critics) encounter a piece of art they don’t fully understand the first time going through it, they think it’s the fault of the movie or the work of art. They think, ‘It’s a mess … This doesn’t make any sense.’ And they reject it, just out of an almost knee-jerk response to some ambiguity or some gulf between what they expect they should be able to understand, and what they understand.” In the same interview, Lana Wachowski stated “(p)eople will try to will Cloud Atlas to be rejected. They will call it messy, or complicated, or undecided whether it’s trying to say something New Agey-profound or not. And we’re wrestling with the same things that Dickens and Hugo and David Mitchell and Herman Melville were wrestling with. We’re wrestling with those same ideas, and we’re just trying to do it in a more exciting context than conventionally you are allowed to. … We don’t want to say, ‘We are making this to mean this.’ What we find is that the most interesting art is open to a spectrum of interpretation.”