Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece – not the movie, but the award-winning novel by celebrated British author David Mitchell. Published in 2004 to sensational reviews, the story sprawls across countries and generations, starting in 1850s New Zealand and ultimately ending up in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, as well as genres; we get everything from a pulpy conspiracy thriller to a farcical comedy to a dystopian science-fiction coming-of-age tale, all seamlessly woven together through the subtly connected characters and Mitchell’s elegant, versatile prose. If ever a truly unfilmable book existed, this might be it.
I’m still not sure whether this attempt by the Wachowskis (the duo behind the revolutionary sci-fi action flick The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (director of the German-language Run Lola Run and the Clive Owen-starring The International) to bring Mitchell’s vision to life is more daring or reckless. Certainly, in a time when the movie industry seems less focused on quality than quantity and even independent film-makers adhere too closely to predetermined clichés and norms, any project of this scope and ambition deserves resounding praise for its efforts alone. Regardless of how the end product turned out, whether it was an awe-inspiring tour de force or an awe-inspiring catastrophe, people were going to talk about it, which is more than I can say for the majority of movies that flit into theaters nowadays.