David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is one of those critically acclaimed novels that are deemed to be unfilmable. Somehow, Andy and Lana Wachowski (the Matrix series), together with Tom Tykwer (The International) manages to make a mostly-coherent epic out of it.
I won’t even detail the plot, as the movie contains not one, not two, but six different stories with totally different characters. However, these stories and characters are linked not only by a clever story construct, but also by themes. In late 19th century, a trader named Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is about to get into slave trade when he is poisoned by the ship doctor (Tom Hanks). In 1936, a young gay composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) becomes the protégé of a famed composer, and it’s at the older composer’s house that Robert comes across the journals of Ewing.
In 1973, a young reporter (Halle Berry) gets a tip from a nuclear scientist Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) that something is wrong with the nuclear power plant owned by oilman Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant). When Sixsmith was murdered, the reporter finds letters to Sixsmith left by Frobisher as well as a classical piece called Cloud Atlas composed by Frobisher. in 2012, publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is forced into a nursing home where he plans an elaborate escape. Before then, he was about to publish a novel that details the nuclear plant incident.