Cloud Atlas is a bit murky

Based on David Mitchell’s 2004 novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas is an sci-fi drama spanning five centuries and six separate eras, the 1850s, the 1930s, 1973, 2012, 2144 and the distant future. Films that tell more than one story and blend several in one are not new.

If one found Babel (2006), which weaved three stories all in the present, demanding, Cloud Atlas goes further, as mentioned above in intertwining six periods. 

The stories from the past and present include a young businessman in the seas, a pensive music composer who works as an apprentice to an old man, and a journalist Luisa (Berry) who risks her life by unraveling dark secrets.

The fourth story is about a man in the publishing business who gets tricked into signing himself into a nursing home, from which he cannot escape. The futuristic segments are rather grim: one about Korean women as sex slaves and the other of humans devolving as cavemen.

Understandably, this three-hour film has three directors, each taking turns for various segments. Most of the ensemble cast is featured in up to six different roles, under layers of makeup and different ethnicities, making some unrecognisable.

Remembering their names and faces is quite a challenge. Add to this the intertwining of stories and flow: there is no sequence in how the scenes move from one to the next. With the close attention Cloud Atlas demands from the audience, viewing it once is simply not enough.

While there is excitement in the beginning and middle part, it’s the last part which disappoints as several scenes are packed, making it seem the makers had run out of time. It would have been wiser to release the film in two, if not three parts, for a film adaptation of a mammoth novel does little justice.

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