Cloud Atlas: will any film-goers comprehend this 'mud soup'?

Oct 25, 2012

Critics say new film is a 'bloated, self-indulgent slog' - but maybe they just don't 'get it'

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

CLOUD ATLAS was touted as a potential Oscar winner at film festivals last month but, following its California premiere last night, US critics are wondering if audiences are going to understand it.

Its $100m budget reportedly makes it the most expensive indie film ever made. With a star-studded cast, including Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant and Halle Berry (above), it interweaves six stories and claims to show "how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future".

Adapted from David Mitchell's novel of the same name and co-directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, the siblings behind The Matrix trilogy, it has been dubbed "the most ambitious film ever made".

But an ambitious concept and enormous budget doesn't necessarily make an audience-friendly movie, US critics have warned.

Cloud Atlas manages to take "the longest possible route to say absolutely everything and nothing at all" says Jason Roestel in The Examiner. It looks fantastic, he says, but "thanks to the mutilated dialogue, it's also completely fuddled".

"I can honestly say that I grabbed about 20 per cent of what Tom Hanks and Halle Berry were talking about," he complained.

"Maybe if you're 20 years old and high in your dorm room with your friends, the platitudes presented in Cloud Atlas might seem profound," says Christy Lemire for Associated Press. "Anyone else in his or her right mind should recognise it for what it is: a bloated, pseudo-intellectual, self-indulgent slog through some notions that are really rather facile."

Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York says these "disparate tales" have been "listlessly smashed together in the hopes that something substantial will emerge".

He added: "For all of Cloud Atlas's pseudo-revolutionary blather about upending the 'natural order', the execution couldn't be squarer.”

Rex Reed in the New York Observer goes further, describing the movie as a "lugubrious sludge of mud soup". In spite of the "publicity poop", nothing really intersects, says Reed, except in "preposterous threads only a nuclear physicist could formulate on both sides of an equation".

Reed concludes that it is "ambitious and massive and fascinating, like a public hanging".

Is it possible critics are just not 'getting it'? "Densely populated, yes; impenetrable, no", says Alonso Duralde at Reuters, who claims the concept is a bold move in an age of shortened attention spans.

"Cloud Atlas throws viewers directly into the deep end and relies upon the viewer's ability to stay afloat," he says. While he found the emotional climaxes lacking, he says it is the kind of film that "drives discussion and could even advance the medium" if mass audiences are willing to give it a chance.

Meanwhile, Tom Hanks himself has said he “loved” that it wasn't going to be simple for audiences. "Lord, doesn't that sound beautiful?” he said. “A film that is original, creative and makes you think."

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Wow! As someone who has seen the movie twice I couldn't disagree more with these critics. The movie is a think piece that's for sure. It's definitely meant to be seen more than once and encourages lengthy discussion among movie goers but really, mud soup? Bloated and self-indulgent? They sound very jaded and were probably offended by the critic that was thrown over the balcony in the movie.

No thanks you couldn't pay me to watch Tom Hanks and the hate filled Halle Berry in any film.
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