Phoned-in portent and feigned profundity form the basis of each of the seven interlocking narratives that comprise Cloud Atlas, and while they appear superficially distinct (a bit of creaky 1930s manor drama cast against garish near-future sci-fi, etc.), they share the fully consistent qualities of flat acting, shabby editing, and surprisingly uninspired design. That not one of these seven pieces feels like a coherently developed story of its own is perhaps unsurprising (even unfurling over an interminably dull 163 minutes, we simply don’t spend enough time with any particular set of characters for a single emotional arc to properly register), but what’s remarkable is how poorly they fit together as an ostensibly unified whole. The rhythm of this thing—and when you’re composing something this dense, rhythm is everything—just feels entirely wrong, reducing what crumbs of dramatic or kinetic interest are scattered across its running time to dust. This isn’t simply a case of elements of the film working or not working; the entire array of ideas (both aesthetic and thematic) which make up the film are so badly integrated that even the smallest traces and flickers of light are snuffed out altogether. Nothing works because, almost by the very nature of its design, nothing can: It collapses so intensely under the weight of its own inanity and pretension that nothing at all is left standing.