Attendees of this weekend’s Toronto Film Festival got a preview of Oscar season with the first full public screening of Cloud Atlas, an ambitious, widely debated adaptation of David Mitchell’s British Book Award-winning novel, due to hit theaters October 26. The film, whose ensemble cast includes Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, tells six unique stories that span centuries and attempts to capture what unites all human life on Earth. Cloud Atlas earned a lengthy standing ovation after its screening, but reviews coming out of the festival have been decidedly mixed. Is Cloud Atlas one of the year's best and most original films — or a dull, derivative disaster?
Cloud Atlas is groundbreaking: Cloud Atlas "doesn't feel like any other film that I can name," says Drew McWeeny at HitFix. This is the rare, remarkable film "that dares to dream big in a way we rarely see from either studios or independent sources," and its scope is broad enough "for every viewer to have a different experience...." Though it's easy to be cynical about Hollywood's current obsession with "remakes and sequels and comic books," Cloud Atlas is proof that "anything is possible if the right artists are given room to experiment."
"Review: Tom Hanks and Halle Berry take a soulful journey in the transcendent Cloud Atlas"
Cloud Atlas is a catastrophe: Cloud Atlas is "seven of the worst films I've ever seen in my life glued together haphazardly," says Calum Marsh at Slant Magazine. The film's tendency to jump between multiple timelines leaves it feeling disjointed; it's easy to lose track of "what's going on in any of the timelines that aren't currently on screen." But even when Cloud Atlas is comprehensible, it's "interminably dull." The directors — Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer — "wanted to make a movie unlike any other," and they did, but unfortunately, that movie is a "totally unparalleled disaster."
"Toronto International Film Festival 2012: Cloud Atlas"
Cloud Atlas isn't great or terrible — but worse, it's unambitious: The most disappointing thing about Cloud Atlas is how "dully unimaginative the film really is," says Kevin Jagernauth at IndieWire. Cloud Atlas was financed and produced outside the studio system, which should have given the Wachowskis and Tykwer the opportunity "to really push this audacious premise to the limit." But despite the film's surface-level complexity, this is the Wachowkis' "most mainstream and blandly drawn effort to date," offering only "fortune cookie social commentary" instead of genuine insight into the human condition.
"TIFF Review: Cloud Atlas is bold, messy, and disappointingly unimaginative"