Cloud Atlas

  Cloud Atlas is an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by David Mitchell. By all accounts, it’s a very decent read and is certainly worth your time. The same cannot be said of this movie. Cloud Atlas maybe the first attempt to satirize the entire idea of award winning movies. At least I hope so. Because if it’s meant to be taken seriously, it’s the most blatant, hackneyed approach to storytelling ever conceived. Instead of settling for one script, Cloud Atlas decides to combine every possible award-winning script together with no rhyme, reason, or any threads to connect them.

The movie tries it’s best to follow the rather complicated plot of the novel, in doing it’s best to tell multiple stories that are occurring in different locations and different times. The first story is about Adam Ewing, a lawyer who finds himself shipwrecked on a colony and befriends a stowaway ex-slave on his treacherous journey home. The second story stars a homeless, homosexual musician in 20th century Belgium, trying to become the apprentice of a reclusive, old composer. Halle Berry stars in the next story as an intrepid report in 1973 San Francisco, who finds herself the target of a mysterious conspiracy concerning a nuclear power plant. The next story is about the misadventures of an elderly publisher and his imprisonment in an old folks home thanks to his malicious brother. The next story jettisons itself into a post apocalyptic future in the city of Neo-Seoul where a young clone rebels against her programing to become a leader to her people. And finally, the last story leaps to the far future where mankind is extinct, except for a small tribe of hunter gathers and a visiting alien race that has taken suspicious interest in the tribe’s small island.

The most damning thing about the movie is that the stories don’t flow one after another. Rather they cut it in the middle and jump to another plot out of nowhere. By the time the move gets back to the story you were invested in, you’ve either already forgotten or no longer care. The constant shift of perspective is disorienting. The novel does a great job of insuring all these separate stories share a common thread, but the film fails completely at this. If you’re not familiar with the novel, none of the stories have any unifying themes. It all feels like a mishmash of too many plots with no payoff.

One interesting thing the movie does do in order to drive home the connection between all these characters and stories is to cast the same actors to play parts for each act. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Keith David, Hugo Weaving and more do a great job with their many roles. But it would be so much better if the director could unite the story web through better script writing rather than casting.

Cloud Atlas has great pieces that, thanks to mismanaging of a complex novel, fail to connect in any meaningful way. At nearly three hours, it drags so much you’ll have long stopped caring about any of these characters or their motivations. The movie makes a gallant attempt to be profound and inspiring, but hits all the wrong notes.