Cloud Atlas is 'bonkers' but audiences won't be bored

Feb 21, 2013

Even its silliest elements are 'guilty pleasures' say critics as Cloud Atlas comes to UK cinemas

THE FILM Cloud Atlas was chastised as "film-making folly" when it was released in America last year. But as it opens in UK cinemas this weekend, British critics appear to be embracing its "silliness".

David Mitchell's sprawling novel, published in 2004, has been turned into a three-hour film by German film-maker Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, creators of The Matrix. With a star-studded cast, including Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant and Halle Berry, it interweaves six stories that begin in the Pacific Ocean in 1849 and conclude in post-apocalyptic Hawaii in the 24th Century.

It was deemed a flop by many in the US after it raked in a mediocre $9.4m on its opening weekend. But The Guardian points out that it is crawling into profit, thanks to strong showings in Russia ($17m), Brazil ($4.6m), Germany ($12.6m) and China ($21.6m).

So will it find success in the UK? At the very least, audiences won't be bored, say critics.

"Artful and awe-inspiring, laughable and lamentable, Cloud Atlas is, to put it mildly, bonkers," says James Mottram in Total Film. The gimmick of having actors changing roles, and even race, "can distract and introduce unintentional humour", he says, but overall Cloud Atlas will "keep you enraptured for its sheer dexterity alone".

Stella Papamichael at Digital Spy UK complains that the film-makers are "overly dependent" on recurring motifs and familiar faces popping up time after time but she concedes that it is "never boring".

Mark Adams in the Daily Mirror says: "Some will call it a bloated and silly folly, but in truth it is bold, exciting and gloriously ambitious." He adds that it is "never less than beautiful" to watch.

"What a strange beast Cloud Atlas is," says The Scotsman's Alistair Harkness. Connections between storylines "are frequently oblique", he says, and Tom Hanks pops up in a variety of "latex-caked guises", such as a malevolent ship doctor, an Irish gangster-turned-author and the doyen of a tribal clan under threat from some "Mad-Max-style savages".

It is "often bold and wildly ambitious, at times both wilfully and unintentionally silly", says Harkness, but it is also "occasionally moving, always beautiful, rarely dull".

There's plenty to argue with and more to scoff at in Cloud Atlas, says the Daily Telegraph's Tim Robey. But it is also "a dizzily generous ride, scored with real grandeur, and even its silliest elements are guilty pleasures."

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