TIFF 2012: Cloud Atlas Got Lost In the Clouds

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Tom Hanks at the Toronto International Film Festival: I love coming to Toronto.
  • George Prentice
  • Tom Hanks at the Toronto International Film Festival: "I love coming to Toronto."

Powerful? Yes. Inspiring? Maybe. Epic? Let me get back to you on that.

Inside the press kit for Cloud Atlas—the blockbuster all-star film that had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night—studio publicists dubbed the movie a "powerful, inspiring epic." But when the nearly three-hour movie ended and the lights came up, the filled-to-the-rafters theater sat in silence. Finally, one journalist began a slow round of applause but ended after only three claps. The other 554 reporters and industry officials silently made their way to the exit. Not exactly a good sign for a movie so huge that its budget could feed a small nation.

True, the brothers Wachowski have directed a story of epic proportions, interweaving a half-dozen grand stories about destiny, separated by centuries but designed to have us accept that "everything is related." Unfortunately, only three of the tales would have made engaging movies on their own. And too often, Cloud Atlas left me anxious to jump back to whatever story that wasn't presently on the screen. Collectively, the film has the necessary appendages but no spine. And for all of the special effects—and they are pretty damn special—the narrative arc is a slog.

"I love coming to Toronto," said Tom Hanks as he arrived at Saturday's premiere. "There are great movie audiences here, and I hope that they either love this movie or hate this movie. As long as they argue about it, that's what matters."

That's probably true, Mr. Hanks. But my argument isn't with another filmgoer. I'm debating with myself. I really wanted to like Cloud Atlas. It looked amazing. It has one of the most beautiful musical scores in years and the makeup and cinematography are groundbreaking. But I prefer a more entertaining experience instead of sensory overload.

I'm sure that more than a few people will find much to like about Cloud Atlas, but as for me, I was anxious to find a road map out of the theater.

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