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Cloud Atlas (6/10)

By Tony Medley

Run time 172 minutes.

Not for children.

Seeming to channel reincarnation, at almost three hours this convoluted, neo-epic film telling six separate tales is too long and, in the end, too preachy. I felt like I should get a T-shirt that said, "I survived Cloud Atlas." But the acting by the A-list cast is impressive, as are the cinematography, the pace, and cutting back and forth from one time frame to another. Unfortunately, the movie does not make the years of the six episodes, all of whom contain the same actors, clear.

The worst part of the film is the one in which Tom Hanks plays a shepherd. It's not that the story is so bad, it's that Hanks and Halle Berry speak in such heavy accents, they are almost incomprehensible. If writers/directors Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Washowski really wanted his characters to speak in accents so heavy, they should have provided their audience with subtitles. I finally gave up trying to understand them.

But, then, that was par for the course for this movie because I eventually gave up trying to understand what the point was, other than the Rodney King lament, "Can't we all just get along?" It might have been better had they just said that at the outset and saved everyone almost three hours in a darkened theater.

In the end a three hour movie like this is just a massive ego trip by all involved. This is how Hollywood spends $100 million, and it's not a pretty picture.

The six separate stories take place in 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144, and 2346. Unfortunately, as I said, the years of each are never identified, at least I didn't see anything that ID'd them. So, just to make it a little more comprehensible if you do find yourself in a theater watching this, here is the lineup:

1849: Jim Sturgess hooks up with slave David Gyasi and they board a schooner in the South Pacific.

1936: Ben Whitshaw is a gay composer working with Jim Broadbent in Scotland.

1973: Halle Berry is a journalist in San Francisco investigating plant owner Hugh Grant and runs into Tom Hanks ("big oil" is the villain in this piece, surprise, surprise).

2012: Broadbent is an English publisher making money publishing a book by roguish Hanks.

2144: Doona Bae is a genetically engineered person in "Neo Seoul" and she's recruited by Jim Sturgess to lead an insurrection.

2321 and 2346: Hanks is a goatherd in Hawaii after a cataclysm in which Bae is viewed as a goddess. Hanks is recruited by Berry to, well, fight the system. This is the one in which the dialogue is very difficult to understand.

Maybe this will help you enjoy the film more than I did, because I didn't read the notes first and was at sea most of the time, and I don't think I was alone.