Thoughts on Cloud Atlas

Warning: Spoilers for Cloud Atlas

We had a choice this evening on whether to watch Lincoln or Cloud Atlas. We opted for the latter, despite its near three hour running time because I had heard fantastic things about it. What I had heard was that it was a movie that told parallel stories through different time periods, in the past, present and future. I had also heard that they were all linked and fit together.

I might be too dense to get it, but none of the stories seemed to connect in anything but a sheer surface manner. We get the following stories:

–          A young man traveling back from a slave colony with a runaway slave and a doctor trying to kill him;

–          A young composer who goes to meet an older composer and becomes his assistant;

–          A reporter uncovering a story on a corrupt nuclear power plant plot;

–          A publisher in trouble with the wrong sorts of people;

–          A replicant trying to expose moral corruption;

–          A tribal man and hi-tech woman trying to send a message to the stars.

They all have similar birthmarks. Some characters cross over between stories. Otherwise, I couldn’t see any deep meaning behind the stories.

The film features clips from each of these stories, cut together, sometimes as little as a minute or two of each story. This isn’t a story telling technique that I enjoy terribly much. I like to have time to invest in characters and identify with their challenges.

Another drawback of the quickly cut stories is that we are often just seeing the action highlights of a particular story. None of the character moments which go into the people making different decisions.

Of the stories themselves, I love Sci-Fi, so I liked the last story the best. However, it hasn’t got a lot of meat on its bones. The story of the composer was one with more of a complete story to it. I genuinely liked the tragic story of the young man born too early.

The slave colony story, the reporter and the publisher felt too well-trodden to me. There weren’t any real surprises in the stories themselves.

The replicant storyline was just too bleak and ended on a decidedly flat speech.

The makeup was another side to this movie that a lot of people talked about. For me, it seemed to vary between exceptional and unconvincing. I just thought that, in some places, they were asking the makeup to do too much. It wasn’t anything that distracted me from the movie, but I didn’t honestly care all that much that they were the same actors in each story.

Overall, Cloud Atlas wasn’t bad. It was about a three star movie. If they’d cut out a couple of the stories, limited the running time and fleshed out the remaining stories, I think I would have enjoyed it more.


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