Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas:  This movie didn’t do so well at the box office, probably because of its long running time (2 3/4 hours) and its difficult-to-classify genre — sci fi without the space aliens? But it’s a fascinating movie, and well worth the time investment.

The movie features six loosely interlocking stories, which take place from the 1840s to the far future.  The overarching them (“we are all connected”) is weak, but many of the smaller connections  between the stories (a scrap of music written in the 1930s reappears as Musak in a dystopian future fast food joint, or the reappearance of Meek in various guises) are fascinating.  Even if you don’t pick up all the connections, the individual stories are pretty interesting as mini-movies of their own.

The cast features an interesting assortment of actors who don’t usually work together (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon) operating as a kind of cinematic repertory, with the actors playing large roles in some stories and smaller ones in others.  Watch for Tom Hank’s bravura turn as a pugilistic Cockney author.  And nobody does smarmy like Hugh Grant.

The team of directors (Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski brothers) do an amazing job of moving the individual stories at the same rate, cutting between them in a way that allows each story to maintain just the right amount of dramatic momentum.

Worth seeing, but I think it’s best if you watch it at one sitting.  Wait for a rainy Sunday afternoon?

There’s nothing here that is objectionable for older children, although some might find the pace too slow.

Side Effects

A psychiatrist prescribes antidepressants for a young woman who has recently attempted suicide. The drug has some interesting side effects. Things go seriously sideways from there, and a movie that you think is going to be a polemic on the pharmaceutical industry becomes — something else.

I’m not generally a fan of Steven Soderbergh, but the way he deftly handles the plot twists and turns here makes me sorry he’s announced his retirement. Jude Law, whose career has had some serious sideways turns of its own, is the best here that he’s been in years.  And the supporting cast (Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones) is very strong too.

An interesting and well-made movie, but probably too intense for younger children.