The So-Called “Stars” of Cloud Atlas: Why Tom Hanks and Halle Berry Aren’t As Relevant As One May Think

Cloud Atlas is an ambitious independent film with a tremendous budget and boasts of a cast that includes the great Tom Hanks and the always-lovely Halle Berry. Yet, through the first couple of weeks of the film’s release, most would come to the conclusion that, while the film may be getting some critical praise, it will most certainly be a box-office failure.

While the style in which the six different stories of the film is brought to the big screen may be complicated for an audience and the near 3 hour runtime of the film could make it challenging for the movie to find an audience, the fact that the film has failed to generate much income may be due to the incorrect perception that two “high-drawing” movie stars would be enough to draw in audiences for a long enough time to capture them with the film’s spectacular nature.

In Hanks’ case one could make the argument that he hasn’t been truly relevant in over a decade. This writer is about to make that case by looking back at Mr. Hanks’ filmography to determine when a true Tom Hanks vehicle has been both a critical and monetary success.

I will start off by conceding that Toy Story 3 was a tremendous success and remains quite relevant today. However, it is an animated film, and much like with the Polar Express, Tom Hanks certainly isn’t the driving force of the movie.

The last time that Hanks was the leading man in a film that was a true success, both critically and at the box-office, was… hold your breath… the year 2000, with Cast Away. This man was an absolute monster star in the 1980’s throughout the 90s, starring in monumental films like Big, Philadelphia, and Forrest Gump, but when the new millennium came around, he took one last breath of that stardom, and his career has been fading ever since.

Certainly there are some solid efforts that have been made by Hanks to keep things going for himself, but after Cast Away he has, for the most part either stepped aside for supporting roles in his successes (Catch Me If You Can) or has made himself look ridiculous (The Ladykillers).

To summarize Hanks’ career arc, let’s quickly run through his filmography after Cast Away was released. In 2002 Hanks appeared in Road To Perdition, which is probably the strongest candidate to suggest that maybe Cast Away was a little too early to say that his career was faded. But, while I personally loved Road To Perdition, it now feels like a film that rode Hanks’ previous success in the box-office. Audiences would have rejected the grittiness of this film if Tom Hanks was not the lead in the project. That same year, Hanks appeared in Catch Me If You Can, another extraordinary effort and film that I enjoy more every time I revisit; however, this was a supporting role for Hanks.

His next two films were essentially flops coming in 2004 with what is probably the worst Coen Brothers film ever made in The Ladykillers and the romantic comedy about a man stuck in an airplane terminal, aptly named The Terminal (The Polar Express was the other film he made in 2004, but that was an animated film). In 2006 came the disaster that was The Da Vinci Code which was based on the very popular Dan Brown book. This film found a way to be one of the most dull summer blockbuster films of all-time. He followed up with a sequel to the dullness in 2009 with Angels & Demons. He was in a couple of movies in between, including Charlie Wilson’s War, which is a movie that I personally enjoyed, more due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance than anything, but grossed about $66 million domestically while having a production budget of $75 million.

Then there came the year 2011, which could be a year which perfectly puts on display that Tom Hanks has now become “just another actor.” The two films Hanks was part of in 2011 were  Larry Crowne and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Both of these films were not good (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had no business being nominated for a best picture award). Larry Crowne in particular is probably a film that was made about a decade too late and while it may have had a few decent moments, the film didn’t work and became a complete disaster. I really try to avoid talking about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close because it’s a film that I find a little insulting that obviously put mass amounts of effort into being as manipulative of a film as there can be.

All of this past decade suggests that Hanks is well past his prime, and in this generation he won’t be remembered for the great things he did in the earlier years of his career.

Now… onto Halle Berry. I don’t believe she’s as difficult to argue as being irrelevant as Hanks is, since Hanks at least has consistently been in movies that are at least mediocre. Berry, I would argue has been in 3, maybe 4, good movies in her entire career in which she played a significant role (and I’m being generous). She obviously proved she is talented with her performance in Monster’s Ball and she was at least there in the first two installments of the X-Men franchise. Swordfish has it’s moments but, let’s face it, the big story about that film was how much she was allegedly paid to appear topless. A film of hers that I have not seen is Things We Lost in the Fire, which was received with generally positive reviews.

It may be friendly to call the rest of her films absolute garbage. There was Die Another Day, which marked the end of the Pierce Brosnan era as James Bond, Catwoman (I don’t believe I even need to explain how terrible that movie is), New Year’s Eve (a film which I did not see but I assume was not good due to the fact that it was another one of those massive money grab ensemble cast romantic comedies), and Perfect Stranger, which I thought made a good case of being the worst film of 2007. And that’s just to name a few of her lesser showings.

The films I accepted as being solid movies for Halle Berry all occurred between 2000 and 2003 (if you count the X-men movies).

There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are talented individuals. They may even be two of the finest performers we have in show business. But, in the case of Cloud Atlas, it may have been a wiser move to go with a couple more relevant performers in order to accomplish the desired results in creating a unique independent film. I myself am not a big fan of Cloud Atlas as a film, but there is so much potential in creating a world for and audience to be drawn into. I respect the film for its creativity and its beautiful visuals. I respect it for trying to do something that isn’t quite often done, but I fear that Tom Hanks and Halle Berry were the incorrect choices for drawing in an audience for this film.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Kevin Licht, a graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor emphasis in Film Studies. When I'm not working I watch and write

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  1. Pam Walker

    It is a difficult argument to bring forward. Saying that these stars are not stars anymore and should not be cast in the film (in a manner of speaking) is like saying that aspiring actors should not be cast in a blockbuster and it should all go to the a-listers. With that said though, I can’t help to agree with the points that you bring forward.

    • Kevin Licht
      Kevin Licht

      I’m not sure I can say Hanks and Berry should definitely not have been cast in the film, however there is a strong case to be made that the reason they were cast in the movie was because of an incorrect perception that they are “A-listers” and they would bring in a much broader audience for a film with a unique situation, being one of the most expensive independent films in history and really needing a boost to be financially viable.

  2. Mike G

    Tom Hanks is definitely not the box office draw he used to be. He was excellent in Cloud Atlas, but he no longer has that star power anymore. Loved the movie by the way. Nice write up!

  3. Rosanne

    Hi Kevin,
    I really related to what you said about emotionally manipulative films being insulting. I had a similar reaction to I Am Sam, no matter how good the quality of the performances (and we all know Sean Penn’s amazing), the emotional reactions need to come from an honest response, not devices. There were plenty of good points to the film, but on some level I just felt scammed for caring.

  4. Dan Grove

    I think you may be on to something in this review of the movie. It sounds as if they were brought on to add that ‘Star Power’ to a movie that may not have gotten the attention.

    Tom may have been brought in for his fan base and the older group. This could have been the opposite for Halle, as the younger crowd would want to see her. It seems they were trying to attract as much of a demographics as possible for the movie.

  5. Taylor Ramsey

    Thank you for clarifying some of the points of this film. I have been on the fence about it, now im pretty sure I will try to see it soon.

  6. Tatijana

    Becoming irrelevant as a famous person has to be awful. I would just take the money and run before embarrassing myself.

  7. paul Drake

    worst film with best cast
    i am sure Pierce Brosnan played a cameo part???????

    i need to watch again but i do not have the time.
    like last episode of game of thrones U need to watch a second time and think!

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