It takes chutzpah to make a movie. To get scores of cast and crew to follow a singular vision, to persuade financiers to empty their wallets and even to get audiences to give up their time to watch the finished product takes a certain amount of hubris. But is there a Yiddish word to describe the nerve of the filmmakers behind Cloud Atlas?
This new movie based on a novel by David Mitchell had a budget of over $100 million dollars, a running time close to three hours, a cast of characters you lose track of, a setting that spans hundreds of years and at least two planets. Hell, it even had three directors.
With the film’s epic mass and nonlinear storytelling the immediate reaction after watching it is to try to make sense of what was just projected. One of the problems with Cloud Atlas though is that it stars Tom Hanks, and if you’re going to cast as one-dimensionally wholesome an actor as Mr. Forrest Gump, you can’t expect viewers to try to put thought into your movie.
There is one population that might find it worthwhile to comb through the haystack of Cloud Atlas for deeper meaning. Two of the directors behind Cloud Atlas are the Wachowski siblings, the duo behind The Matrix. They were once the Wachowski brothers, but the elder Larry, has since become Lana. With that information the gimmick behind Cloud Atlas where actors play several roles in many different settings could help the transgendered find subtext in Cloud Atlas that supports their lifestyle. But if the sole message the Wachowkis were going for was to be a rallying call for the transgendered community, and you had Tom Hanks available why not just remake Bosom Buddies?
No, the Wachowkis (who dragged along German director Tom Tykwer into this mess) were going for a grander scope. They were trying to explain humanity.
I’m in the minority for not being a fan of The Matrix movies with its simplistic examination of what is reality? With Cloud Atlas the Wachowskis further prove as filmmakers they are all style and very little substance (the one time they embraced their true nature they made a great, fun movie in Speed Racer).
By no means was Cloud Atlas a drag. It had enough action and impressive production design that your attention is kept throughout its sprawling duration. But the most interesting part is the closing credits where you are surprised by which characters were portrayed by Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving. With that mystery solved there is no reason to put any more thought into this movie.