Here is the review of Cloud Atlas in a nutshell: It's too long, much of it doesn't make sense, but also much of it is entertaining, and a number of its sequences are incredibly thrilling. The money you spend on this film will not feel wasted. The directors, the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) have made sure that you get what you paid for: a galaxy of an epic that stars one of the biggest names out there, Tom Hanks, in more roles than I can remember, the most memorable of which is an East End gangster/author who throws the harshest critic of his book, Knuckle Sandwich, off a balcony.
The film also stars Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Korean actress Doona Bae, spans many centuries, and is composed of six stories that are connected in ways that are complicated (a history of cannibalism, capitalism, and democracy) and demand at least three viewings (nine hours of your life) to understand. The first story, which is set in the middle of the 19th century, is about a young American visiting a Polynesian island and discovering the horrors of the slave trade. The next, set in the 1930s, is about a young, gay English musician and the aging composer he works and writes music for. The next, set in the early '70s, is about a reporter discovering a dark secret at the heart of a new nuclear plant. The next, set in our moment, is about a London-based literary agent. The next, set in the near future, is about a genetically designed Korean fast-food worker who revolts against the system. And the last story, set in the distant future, is about a village of white people that's menaced by white cannibals and visited by a beautiful and enlightened black alien.
The first story is essentially Amistad, the second is anything by Merchant Ivory, the third is The Conversation, the fourth is Four Weddings and a Funeral (or any British comedy involving Hugh Grant), the fifth is The Matrix, and the last is somewhere between The Lord of the Rings and 2001. The best movie in this movie of movies is the one that's like The Matrix—which, unsurprisingly, is directed by the Wachowskis (they directed the two futuristic films and the 19th-century one; Tykwer the rest). The Matrix-like segment, which stars Doona Bae (an actress who is soon to enter the sphere of global celebrity that's shared by Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh) is fucking dazzling.