Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, & Lana Wachowski's CLOUD ATLAS

Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, & Lana Wachowski's CLOUD ATLAS

A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald

What a gorgeous movie to look at this is! Plus, the intertwining stories and jumps in time provide amazing and often confusing food for thought.

Ordinarily such elements in a movie — especially one that provides such beautifully realized alternate reality and sci-fi elements — would for me knock this one out of the park.

But they don’t. Stories also have to be about characters. The actors playing those characters have to be convincing.

That’s where Cloud Atlas falls down. Too many roles are played by too few actors. The makeup meant to personalize them (or to disguise them) is annoying, obvious, distracting, and confusing. I half-expected a “reveal” scene after the credits modeled after The List of Adrian Messenger where the likes of Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster peel off their masks and smile at the camera.

Not here. Instead, we have extremely annoying race changing makeup that in too many cases is just bad. Hugo Weaving as a Korean? Okay, I know it’s 2144 and we’re in Neo Seoul but he still looks fake fake fake.

Is that supposed to be the point? I don’t know. What it did for me was take my attention away from the story and away from the acting — to the makeup. This happens repeatedly as we watch the fine acting from the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Jim Broadbent frittered away.

I suppose there is a scenario where what I found to be annoying is viewed as integral to the story. If so I’m not buying it. I think that what the producers thought was a clever (and potentially salary saving) idea was a dramatic blunder in an otherwise imaginative and thought-provoking film.


Note to the Watchowskis: please do not produce a film based on the novel Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. You’ll destroy it.

Review copyright © 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald

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