The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer may have bitten off more than they—or anyone—could chew in attempting to make a film out of David Mitchell's enormous, past-and-future spanning novel Cloud Atlas. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and a host of others, it's a visual treat, but critics aren't entirely satisfied:
- The "muddled, frustrating" movie doesn't live up to the book, writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. It's clear the filmmakers "labored mightily" to adapt the book's many storylines onto the screen. But "attempts to be original are not enough, they have to succeed. ... Earthbound when it wants to be soaring, striving for a kind of profundity that is out of its grasp, this is simply not the film everyone hoped it would be."
- "Together the filmmakers try so hard to give you everything—the secrets of the universe and the human heart; action, laughs and romance; tragedy and mystery—that you may wind up feeling both grateful and disappointed," writtes AO Scott in a mixed New York Times review. It's "by no means the best movie of the year, but it may be the most movie you can get for the price of a single ticket."
- In USA Today, Claudia Puig calls the film "immersive and unmoving in almost equal measure," noting that "the cumulative effect is one of spectacle over substance. But what a spectacle. The cinematography is gorgeous, the editing artful and the production design impeccable. Academy voters might as well hand over the makeup Oscar now."
- At Salon, however, Andrew O'Hehir is enthusiastic. "I will tell you in the same breath that Cloud Atlas is a flawed and potentially ridiculous work and that I loved it," he writes. "It’s an amazing, baffling, thrilling and (for many, it would appear) irritating experience, and for my money the most beautiful and distinctive big-screen vision of the year."