Words by John Hewitt
Book adaptations are difficult to get right. A writer can spend as many pages as they like explaining key points, building up atmosphere and adding new dimensions to the world around them. A director is forced to cram all these details into a two and a half hour film. Cloud Atlas runs for a whole three hours and yet there still feels like there’s so much missed, rushed or just not right. Which is truly a terrible shame.
Cloud Atlas follows six separate stories that are all linked to each other. Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is a lawyer from the 1800’s trying to hide a stowaway slave from the ship’s crew. Robert Frobisher (Ben Wishaw) is a bisexual composer in the 1930’s trying to write his magnum opus under the guidance of his mad master. Luis Rey (Halle Berry) is a 1970’s reporter who may have uncovered a conspiracy regarding the new nuclear power plant’s safety record. Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is a publisher whose recent windfall comes to the attention of Irish gangsters and is forced to flee to Scotland. Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) is a ‘fabricant’ clone slave worker in Neo Seoul who is released by a mysterious man and becomes involved in the revolutionary underbelly of the city. And Zachery (Tom Hanks) is a survivor of the Fall of Mankind who ends up helping Meronym (Halle Berry) cross cannibal territory to reach the forbidden land where the devil resides.
Cloud Atlas is an enjoyable film. The different genres of the stories are work exceptionally well, with the humorous Tim Cavendish storyline being the runaway star of the film. Also, as the six stories reach their conclusions, the rapid movement between stories creates intense, high octane sequences and suspense. The cinematography, especially in Neo Seoul, is breathtaking and the musical score manages to work across the different stories perfectly.
However, the main problem with the film is the six story lines that make it unique. At the start, when we should be introduced to characters and get to know them, we barely have enough time to make sense of what’s happening before we’re thrown into another world. this makes it rather difficult to follow initially, which makes it a trial to watch. Also, the use of the same actors in different worlds becomes distracting and turns the film into a game of ‘Spot the Actor,’ creating unintentional hilarity when certain actors have unconvincing prosthetics and skin pigmentation.
Cloud Atlas was built to work as a book rather than a film. While the ending keeps you on the edge of your seat, the rapidly intertwining plots are difficult to follow at the start. Worth seeing, but unlikely to something you’d see again and again.
|Director(s):||Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Tom Twyker|
|Starring:||Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant|
|Running Time:||171 fucking minutes|