You have to marvel at the audacity it took to even consider bringing Cloud Atlas to the silver screen. Big blockbusters with some semblance of intelligent thought behind them are very much a dying breed, so turning David Mitchell's genre hopping, time traveling epic into a $100m movie is a laudable achievement. Was it worth it? Well, never has the term 'flawed masterpiece' seemed so apt.
The Wachowskis and Tom Tykver have managed to corral the novel's five hundred pages into a three hour romp that is by turns miraculous and ridiculous, a grand wash of love and violence and suspect prosthetics, which is so absorbing it's only as the credits roll that criticisms begin to creep into your head. The make-up is distracting for one and the performances do vary in quality, with the likes of Ben Whishaw easily outshining the competent but miscast Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. However, when balanced against the exhilarating sense of cinematic adventure which coarses through Cloud Atlas' veins, it's ultimately hard to care about these minor quibbles.
Its greatest achievement is that unlike other movies which aim to explore life's great imponderables, it's never stuffy or weighed down by its own imagined profundity (I'm looking at you here Tree of Life). Each of Cloud Atlas' stories maintain a thrilling pace, and given the fact that there are six of them, all racing towards their denouement in the film's last twenty minutes, the lengthy running time positively flies by.
The movie's failure to find a mainstream audience is both predictable and disheartening and means we may not see such ambitious filmmaking on this scale again anytime soon. So go see it, read it, and have a peruse of these links to help you make sense of it all.
> The three filmmakers chat to Devin Faraci of Bad-Ass Digest.