Cloud Atlas was released in 2004 as a novel by British author David Mitchell. It is wide in scope, covering many different time periods and characters, and yet they all managed to intertwine with one another. It is only fitting that a novel of this magnitude be directed by the Wachowski’s, who created the epic Matrix trilogy.
Cloud Atlas is a hard movie to describe. There are six stories playing out, and for each you catch of glimpse of how they end at the very start. There’s the story of Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) in the 1800’s, a lawyer who befriends a slave and is poisoned by a doctor he trusts as he heads home across the ocean. Then there’s Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), a gay composer in the 1930’s whose mentor attempts to steal his work. The next story is set in the 70’s, and it follows reporter Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) as she tries to uncover the secrets of a nuclear power plant. Then comes the story of Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), a publisher in modern times who is tricked into confining himself into a nursing home. Set in the near future comes the tale of Sonmi—451 (Doona Bae), a genetically created restaurant server who tells her tale of escaping captivity and enticing rebellion. And finally comes a story set in the far future after humanity has destroyed itself told by Zachry (Tom Hanks).
There is only one word to describe Cloud Atlas, and it’s ambitious. It’s ambitious in scope, in story and in filmmaking. The actors play many different roles in the different stories, and at times it becomes almost a game to spot them. The way the movie is cut and spliced together is fantastic, and it keeps you interested for almost the entire three hours. You find yourself watching for clues to connect the stories together, and sometimes they appear in the smallest of ways. There are many themes present throughout the movie that play over and over again as well, such as slavery and freedom, fate and choice, love and hate, and many others. That being said, Cloud Atlas is not a movie that stands out as much as it could have. It felt like it could have been revolutionary the way The Matrix was, but it unfortunately falls short of doing so. It is the stories that cause this to be the case, because none of them are anything special. They keep you interested, but once you get to the end of them you realize that you’ve seen most of them told before
Cloud Atlas is visually a beautiful movie, and although it is interesting to watch and piece together, it’s not the sort of movie you need to rush out to see. In fact you really don’t need to see it at all. If you have three hours to kill you could do worse, but there are better ways to spend your time.