Cloud Atlas - Online Review

'stays faithful to what David Mitchell's book does but where his is a labour of execution Tykwer and The Wachowski's can only try'
Based on a work of literary fiction so complicatedly brilliant in its execution and scope that it must be a tough task for any film to realise its brilliance, Tom Tykwer and The Wachowski's adaptation of Cloud Atlas deserves high marks for effort. If that sounds like the equivalent of a condescending pat on the head then let that not detract from what the directors accomplish here. This could have been a studio-centric disaster of the highest order. Instead, it stays faithful to what David Mitchell's book does but where his is a labour of execution Tykwer and The Wachowski's can only try.

The differences between the two works hint at just why Cloud Atlas could never reach its literary forbearer. In Mitchell's book, a vast amount of the links, relationships and associations between the six diverse stories covered here happen in vague references and side notes. Mitchell associates through inference and margin, whilst the visual nature of the Wachowski's storytelling means they must do so through literality. Here, the same actors link stories together by taking on different roles.

This works incredibly well in some guises, despite early scepticism, with make-up disguising some of the theatre-troop of performers beyond recognition. The casting though is mixed in its success, some actors proving more adept at some roles that others and Hugo Weaving a spectacular misjudgement as every tale's antagonist. Seeing Weaving impart his intentionally delayed line readings to a series of heroes cannot help but bring to mind Agent Smith marauding after Neo wherever he goes. The effect is to create an all-powerful being, a devil-like meddler who shows up again and again throughout time to hurt the heroes. Mitchell's story has no such thing, his characters ruled by individual impulses and foibles; want, greed and justice.

What is brought to life more potently by the stories' relationships to one another here is the inference of cause and effect. By structure, Mitchell's book started with story one and built up to the end of story six at the half-way point in the book. The final half included the conclusions to stories five, four, three, two and one, in that order. The Wachowski's abandon that structure in favour of mixing the narrative throughout, lending it more of an air of gazing through modern times to what might await us on the other side. The nuclear plant in the Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) story has more resonance when you can jump immediately to a mega-conglomerated future, or a post-apocalyptic never-world.

The problem this gives though is in the disposable nature some stories gain. The Rey mystery has impact, consequences; but the Frobisher/Sixsmith love story, so impactful in the book, is reduced here to a tragically entertaining footnote. Where in the novel it was a highlight, on level terms, here it is just another story.

That coupled with the aforementioned mixed casting (Tom Hanks is miss-cast in nearly all of his roles, Berry is rather good, Jim Broadbent is a riot as Timothy Cavendish, in another throwaway story), which Cloud Atlas really relies upon, means that you end up with something so imperfect in places that it fails to net its wider aims, struggling under the weight of its source.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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