Cloud Atlas Does Not Shrug

I was feeling kind of burned out Saturday afternoon from over work on my graphic novel and arguing politics with other bloggers, so Mary Ann and I decided to take a chance on the new movie, Cloud Atlas, playing over at Sierra Cinemas. I was a bit apprehensive about the film after reading some reviews. There are multiple storylines that bounce back and forth through different time periods in human history, and some critics wondered if viewers would be able to follow all the plot lines. After getting excited about Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and coming away disappointed, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take on a two-and-a-half hour sci-fi epic that needed three or four directors to complete.

Let me just say my fears were unfounded. From the moment that an aged Tom Hanks appears on the screen until the credits, my eyes were riveted to the screen. One advantage of the multiple plots is there are no slow periods where you want to go get popcorn; the story comes at you like a tornado and leaves you reeling in your seat. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and the rest of the cast play different roles in all the stories, which are separate yet connected. There is a murder mystery set in 1973, an ocean voyage in 1849, the story of a clone waitress set in Seoul, South Korea in the twenty-second century, a frustrated homosexual composer, a doddering old literary agent who is tricked into committing himself, and the fate of mankind after the “Fall” of civilization in the far-flung future.

Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? But it works magnificently and will no doubt be a contender for the oscars next year. We might even go see it again. Four Stars. (And be sure to stay for the credits, when you get to see all the various roles played by the cast.)

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7 Responses to Cloud Atlas Does Not Shrug

  1. Michael Anderson says:


    Thanks for your review, now I know for sure that I want to see this movie. I read a story about the film’s making in the New Yorker magazine back in September and it really captured my attention.

    Here’s the link for your readers to review, a great back story to this seemingly magnificent film, maybe Oscar’s next Best Picture:

    Michael A.

    • rl crabb says:

      Thanks for the link, Michael. I had not read the book before seeing the movie, and only read a few brief reviews, but I had no problem with the sometimes chaotic narrative. After reading the article, I was struck by the comparison to “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which was the first thing I thought of coming out of the theatre. Some critics complained about “too many storylines” and “too little explanation of the events” leading to the apocalyptic fall of mankind. A good story requires some imagination on the part of the reader/viewer. Cloud Atlas is the story of humanity, how we are all connected despite our cultural differences, our politics, our wars. I didn’t need a narrator to point that out. It is a theme I’ve tried to follow in my own work.

  2. Don Pelton says:

    Thanks for the good review, Bob.

    One review I read suggested that it would probably help to read the novel first, so I’m in the process of doing that. Presumably, when I see the movie, I’ll be able to report on whether that’s true.

  3. rl crabb says:

    Sometimes, it’s more fun to see the movie first, when you don’t have a clue what’s coming next, or why. I don’t have any preconceived ideas about how I envisioned the story. I may have to pick up a copy of the book now, though.

  4. I am in the middle of Cloud Atlas right now – in the Seoul chapter – and I strongly recommend reading the book. Mitchell also does an awesome job mastering and changing literary styles as the chapters progress. Haven’t come to the ‘repeat chapters’ yet, but am looking forward to that this afternoon before THE GAME. Thanks for the movie review; Jo Ann and I are looking forward to seeing it. The question now is when.

    • rl crabb says:

      George – One of the things missing from the movie (don’t know about the book) is man’s relationship with the machines that will come to dominate our existance. Made me think of you and your posts about the Singularity.

  5. Jesus Betterman says:

    For those who are hard of hearing, and can only pick up every fourth word or so, the film is a real challenge. I have temporarily misplaced one of my two hearing aids, and basically gave up. and made up my own story as I went along. For a while I thought that there were as many as 10 different stories. In times past, especially the Tinker Tailor Sailor Spy I had asked management to turn it up, but to no avail. And the theater provided headphones always seem to be “at the shop, being repaired,” so I didn’t even bother this time. So I’ll try the book when it becomes available in the thrift stores. They ought to give you a free download of the book or script for the price of admission, and $6 popcorn.

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