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Cloud Atlas: The sprawling epic has an all too simple point By Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin Metro Canada Reel Guys October 26, 2012

cloud-atlas07SYNOPSIS: Words like audacious and ambitious will be used to describe the sprawling three hour saga from co-directors Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. Based on a novel by British author David Mitchell, the story careens through history like a time machine with a broken steering wheel. Jumping from the Pacific Islands circa 1849 to 1973 San Francisco, to Cambridge and London in the 1930s and present day to Neo Seoul in 2144 to a time known as 106 years after the Big Fall it’s a non-linear epic that connects six characters—make that souls—throughout different times in history.

Star Ratings:

Richard: 3 ½ (Interconnected) Stars
Mark: 4 Stars

Richard: Mark, the movie’s structure seems random at first, but as the running time ticks on connections begin to assert themselves and through lines emerge. Each story has a distinct look and feel but share a common cast. Each actor plays many characters—so to stop your mind from wandering you may find yourself playing a Where’s Waldo game, trying to identify the actors in their various guises. Did you find it confusing?

Mark: All part of the game, Richard, all part of the game. And the Wachowskis are nothing if not game players. There are some people who will think this is the best movie of the year. I don’t know about that but it is the MOST movie of the year-eight movies by my count. Usually after I see a film I want to go for coffee- after Cloud Atlas I felt I needed a vacation. But you can’t fault its ambition. What you can question is its spiritual balderdash of We Are All Connected. If so, why won’t Spielberg return my calls?

RC: I hear you, it is a whole lotta movie. I also get what you mean about he idea that we are all connected. While spiritually satisfying, is the most simplistic of the movie’s concepts. We get it in the first hour, it’s reinforced in the second and by the end of the third act you want to scream, “I know! I know! We’re all connected!” What did you think about each actor taking on six roles?

MB: Part of the fun, and an Oscar shoo-in for whoever did the makeup. There is another theme to the movie which I found less trite which is humanity’s pursuit of freedom and free will over the ages. Some of the stories make this point better than others; I was most engrossed in the Seoul 2144 plot and least impressed with the nursing home geezers, although Jim Broadbent was terrific, as always. But I found it kind of depressing to find that in the far, far future, we all talk like Ozark hillbillies.

RC: I liked the nursing home story! But then again Benny Hill always made me laugh. The action scenes, however, let me down. Surprisingly for directors who redefined movie action in their Matrix trilogy, the anticipated Wachowskis touch is missing in the bigger set pieces.

MB: I think if the action scenes were any bigger they might have overwhelmed the rest of the movie. But even if the film had one plot too many and one idea too few, it still made me feel the grandeur of what cinema can be.

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