The directorial combination of filmmaking visionaries like The Wachowski sibs (The Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) held great promise for Cloud Atlas, and the sprawling, puzzling karmic film doesn't disappoint -- for the most part. The more cynical moviegoer might see casting the same actors in different stories about individual and societal battles against exploitation -- on the High Seas in the 1800s, in 1930s Cambridge, in a bombed-out post apocalyptic universe where people talk like Daufuskie islanders and in a futuristic Asian consumer capital called Neo Seoul -- as more of a gimmick than a bold new cinematic storytelling device. I can't entirely disagree. The idea that we're all connected is not exactly groundbreaking and having the same people crossing one another's paths (both for good and for ill) in so many different contexts might be more cleverness than is required to make the point. And yet I thought the casting worked, mostly, but in several instances I caught myself wondering which of the actors (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, among them) was under the prosthetics. But beyond the gimmickry and the new age mysticism the film is unquestionably an accomplishment, often breathtakingly beautiful and engaging, but I'm not sure its premise will sustain much cocktail conversation. Not because the movie lacks worthwhile ideas -- it actually may have too many -- it just seems to lack a meaningful payoff after all the musing. Still, it's worth seeing, even at its substantial length -- nearly 3 hours. Recommended.