‘Cloud Atlas’ almost too ambitious, confusing

“Cloud Atlas” is a visually appealing fantasy film that is almost too thought provoking.
Based on the novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” follows six characters across different times and weaves the characters together through six stories to show how people connect and influence one another’s lives. The film explores love, mystery, revolution and the basic human condition through a variety of worlds, both fantasy and reality.
The film has a cast of big Hollywood names such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant, and some smaller actors such as Jim Sturgess and Bae Doona. Each actor plays a number of characters throughout the film, and each appear in separate stories ranging from a mid-19th century tale of friendship to a 22nd century where a romance builds between two unlikely people.    

Each actor has shining moments during the film, and each has a fair share of lackluster scenes. Hanks prevails in his role as a doctor on a slave boat, but he fails to match this performance when he plays the role of a tribesman in post-apocalyptic Korea. The same goes for Berry as she shines in her role as ’70s journalist and disappoints as a member of a technologically advanced group in the post- apocalyptic story.
Visually, the film does not disappoint. Each story’s set is carefully constructed, and every focal point is obviously and seriously thought out. The post-apocalyptic story and the story taking place in the far future with a restaurant server clone (Doona) as the main character prove to have the strongest visuals, but the other four stories do not fail to impress.
The only effect that does fall behind is the makeup and prosthetics used. Too much is not necessarily a good thing when too much latex is obviously used to show age on Hanks and Berry. The prosthetics used to help change a character’s race and sex are also poorly done, but it is an effect that is easily ignored.
The film’s major downfall is that it is on the verge of having too much content squeezed into the already lengthy runtime of more than two and a half hours. There is a lot going on in terms of plot in each story, so there is a lot of information presented rather quickly. The subject matter itself offers an idea almost too big for film, and trying to understand this can take away from what else the film has to offer.
“Cloud Atlas” is full of visually beautiful scenes with an award-winning cast, which makes it worth going to see on the big screen.
“Cloud Atlas” is rated R for violence, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.