I’m still not certain if The Cloud Atlas is a classic on the scale of something Kubrick would attempt, or merely a novelty item that’s found a way to repackage Hollywood philosophy, splitting it up so that it doesn’t seem, at first blush, to be so soft-headed. But I can tell you this: I didn’t fall asleep on a single one of its one hundred and seventy-two minutes, the way that I have nodded off this winter on what has felt like an endless parade of standardized reconstituted George Lucas pap adventure regurgitations.
It tried my patience at first: a little too gaudy and showy and stream-of-consciousness for its own good. It does seem like five movies for the price of one, and perhaps it kept me awake by dint of simple leapfrogging: if you don’t like one story, just wait a couple of minutes and another one will show up. When you’re not wondering just what in the heck is going on, the picture keeps you on your toes guessing which actor is behind the piles of prosthetic make-up. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry get the most roles, but it seems to me that Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant had the most fun. Jim Broadbent is about the only one who mostly gets to keep his real face throughout the runtime, and this makes sense: why would you cover up a great face like that?
The film uses the technique of multiple connected stories to deliver a message of human connectedness: and I suppose one of redemption, as the Tom Hanks characters ultimately seem to evolve from the most objectionable and bad-behaving of types to a better class of man who ultimately turns his back, literally, on his Inner Demons.
There’s no denying that it’s an exceedingly flashy and exciting piece of movie-making: but is it saying something profound, or simply holding hands with itself and singing “Kumbaya?” I’ve only just seen the picture, and I suspect my feelings towards it will evolve with time — much like the parade of characters that the picture uses to carry the standard of human experience.