Cloud Atlas (2012) (R)















The book Cloud Atlas David Mitchell is possibly one of the must frustrating things that I've ever read. Let me try to explain it as best I can: a man keeps a journal from when he was exploring in the 17th century or there about—a musician tries to find work by helping an old legend in classical music, this musician comes across the journal and writes about it to his lover—a woman in the 20th century finds the letters that the musician wrote and reads them while becoming involved in a conspiracy—a book critic is reviewing a book written about the woman in the 20th century—in the far future, a robotic personality, comes across a movie made about the book critic—in the far, far future, civilization has pretty much dissipated and the robot has become a deity for the people living on 'Earth'.
So first of all, you've got a complex system of stories all intertwining. The book is laid out like this:
A-B-C-D-E-FF-E-D-C-B-A
The first half of the story is told and then abruptly it will change to the first half of the second story and then so on until the sixth story and then the second halves are filled back in....vexing, is it not? I was expecting the movie to laid out much the same way, but thankfully it was not.
The movie jumps around from story to story with no apparent reason, it's much more complex than even the book. In fact, the movie hardly makes any more sense than the book. But this is one of the rare cases that the movie surpassed the book in accomplishing something.
"Cloud Atlas" has a huge, big-name cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, James D'Arcy, and Hugo Weaving. They all play characters in most of the stories. For example, Ben Whishaw is the musician but he's also a minor hippie character in the story about the woman involved in the conspiracy.
I don't know what possessed the directors (the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer) to make such a film and how they managed to pull it off. 
My problem with the book was very simple: nothing happened. Yeah, cool, you can write about six stories that share characters and events, so what? Nothing really happened. The movie has much more of a point, that we influence each other's lives. It's a bit new-agey but remember that the Wachowskis love to throw some philosophy into their movies. 
There are moments that are cinematically stunning and others that I just wasn't happy with. It's hard to compare the book to the movie, because I don't think that the book is even worth reading. I felt like I wasted a few days of my life on it, while the movie is intriguing and well-done—enough to make it worth seeing at least once. You may feel like you're on a drug trip, but don't worry, the feeling's mutual.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4 

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