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Cloud Atlas. A Cinematographic Ray Of Sunshine?

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cloud atlas (Photo credit: psd)

Ben Whishaw.  One of those great new talents to emerge from Britain (well in my opinion anyway). Ben Whishaw. The reason I found out about a major movie project called ‘Cloud Atlas’.  Due to the fact that Ben had (again in my opinion) given such stellar performances in the BBC’s ‘The Hour’, (now cancelled), Criminal Justice and also the latest instalment of James Bond  ‘Skyfall’, in which he played a younger version of Q, I was sure I would love this mega block buster. The fact that names such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and other Oscar winners and nominees were listed as co-stars made me want to see the film even more.

Now I am one of those people, (who are not liked by many, but that’s ok, ‘cause I’m a lone wolf, a maverick, a renegade, a rebel… yeah right!) who believes in reading the book before watching the movie. On finding out that Cloud Atlas was indeed a novel which was later turned into a movie, I tracked down the text and read it. Written by the British author David Mitchell I must say that I could not put it down. The text truly is a complicated piece of literature which tells six full stories within the one piece.

The first story is that of Adam Ewing, situated within the Pacific Ocean in 1850. The second story is that of Robert Fobisher, (who Whishaw plays in the film). Fobisher is an English musician whose story begins in 1931. The third story is that of Lisa ray. In 1975, Ray is an investigative journalist in California who is looking into reports that a nuclear power plant is not safe. The fourth story is the comic relief of the book. It tells the tale of 65 year old vanity press publisher Timothy Cavendish.  Whilst the fifth story charts the story of clone Sonmi – 451 and is set in Nea So Copras, a futuristic state. Lastly, the sixth story makes up the central part of the novel. It tells the story of Zachary who is to be found with his family living within a post-apocalyptic society. Within the novel the sixth story is the only one allowed to run all the way through. The other tales are broken up and woven between one another. Each starting and stopping at fundamental key points.  The beauty of the piece being that even though this is the way that the book flows, Mitchel never allows you to feel lost within the maze of stories. In turn it allows the reader to comprehend the message that regardless of race, gender, class and time, somehow we each influence and have bearing on all others. It gives credence to the idea that whatever your actions are now, it has reverberations on those to come. I was in awe when I had completed the book and I could not wait to see the film.

Don’t you just hate those people who state things like, ‘The book was so much better than the film’…. Well sorry… but….

I do not know if it is because such an intricate body of tales, interlaced so well together just simply cannot be translated visually onto the cinematic screen or if the screenplay adaptation was simply weak but ‘Cloud Atlas’ the movie paled considerably  next to the novel.  The quality of acting and the star power should have been able to save it, however even with great performances given by all involved, I believe the piece had already failed before production had begun and the first scene shot. The director’s decision of having the actors play diverse roles from one story to the next was a stroke of genius. It also went to concrete the idea of the linkage of lives through time. Sometimes they would play the main protagonist whilst within other stories they would simply have a bit part. A round of applause must also be sounded for the films make-up artists, whose prosthetics had some of the actors unrecognisable as they played their roles. Regardless of which, the movie still fell short. It simply left me unmoved.

In all, I found Cloud Atlas the movie very disappointing. The Times even lists it as the number one worst movie of 2012. I do not know if I would go that far. There are many who did a lot worse, and who are stronger contenders for that title. However, it was a let-down. I do not wish to deter anyone from going to see the movie however. The costumes, cinematography, acting and make-up alone are worth the effort, but if you are one who requires the presence of a working script to hold a movie together, Cloud Atlas simply will not be your thing.

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