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Review: 'Cloud Atlas' tumbles to Earth

Though the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have labored mightily to make a profound and soaring film, the complex story of 'Cloud Atlas' is beyond their grasp.

October 25, 2012|By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

So the film's seven top-billed actors including Hanks, Berry and Broadbent, play either five or six roles apiece, ranging from the small to the substantial, and nine other actors, including Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon, take on a minimum of three. The notion behind this multi-role playing is that the narrative arc of "Cloud Atlas" is one of the same souls reappearing in different bodies over time in some sort of karmic progression. But though it's meant to enhance the story's unity, given all the complex and tricky makeup that is involved, all these switches play more like a distracting gimmick.

The same holds true for the way "Cloud Atlas" blows up themes like the transcendent power of love to the size of Thanksgiving Day parade floats. When one character says "From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future," she is pushing the film's theme in a typically relentless way.

Finally, what sinks "Cloud Atlas" is not the largeness of its ambitions but the lack of skill it displays in terms of writing, directing and acting. Earthbound when it wants to be soaring, striving for a kind of profundity that is out of its grasp, this is simply not the film everyone hoped it would be.


MPAA rating: R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use

Running time: 2 hours, 52 minutes

Playing: In general release


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