Strangers Connected by Time
Cloud Atlas is The Wachowskis attempt at bringing the supposedly unfilmable novel by David Mitchell to the big screen. However, unlike Naked Lunch, the challenge of Cloud Atlas lies in the way it is presented rather than the subject matter itself. I don’t want this to be a “the book was better than the movie let me list the reasons” type of review so I’ll try to shy away from that, but even then there are some changes from the novel that I think would have made for a better movie.
Both the book and the movie are about six interconnected stories. The book is presented in chronological fashion but split into two parts at key moments of the book. The film forgoes this format instead intertwines the stories throughout the film. I think the new method takes some of the mystery and suspense out of the stories because the viewer gets instant gratification. It also seems to lead to a lot of unnecessary exposition from the characters. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the events in the books have been changed or left out entirely. If you’ve read the book you know why some of these things happen, but if you’re uninitiated you might wonder why Luisa Rey goes from her apartment to a sweat shop for no reason or the purpose of Robert Frobisher’s love affair with Jocasta. I would also say the constant switching of stories killed the emotion for me. It seemed very forced since the pace of the movie is at a high tempo.
There are some positives though. The film looks stunning. The set decoration from all the different eras look great. The makeup is also wonderful. Many of the actors in the film play a role in each different story but the makeup disguises them so they look different and in some cases they even swap genders. Most of the time the effect is remarkable but then there are some times the makeup looks more goofy than gorgeous. The highlight for me was seeing Tom Hanks act out the Sloosha’s Crossin’ segment of the film/story. When I read it I thought how challenging it must be to do something like that, and it did not disappoint. I think the actors did a commendable jobs through the whole thing in their different roles.
Overall I enjoyed the film. Some changes irked me and the transfer from page to screen didn’t quite live up to my expectations. If anything the movie is more incentive to go read the book. But since it is such a unique film with all these different elements thrown in it is an enjoyable adventure worth checking out at least once.