Cloud Atlas: A Review

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Adapted from David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis (The Matrix Trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) have brought six inter-connected tales spanning across a fictional history of Mankind into the big screen. Even the story behind how the directors convinced Mitchell to take the book to screen has been a long and enduring journey. 


The sequence in how the six stories interweaved in the book starts from the pacific journal of Adam Ewing in 1850 moving ahead in time to a post-apocalyptic world. At the end of the sixth tale, the sequence of the book moved backwards all the way back into 1850. Throughout the book, you will find clues about the characters are just reincarnations of the same soul trapped in different bodies identified by a birthmark. In the author’s perspective, that birthmark takes the allegory of human nature. In the movie, several themes emerged across to the audience. At the start of the movie, you will notice that there are six threads going on, but as the movie progress, it collapses towards one thread that present a pessimistic perspective of human civilisation.  

In the movie, you will discover the actors who acted as Adam Ewing and his wife, Tilda are the same as the one in the fifth tale as Chang Hae Joo and Sonmi-451, but the theme they represent is the same: the courage to rise against oppression and to speak truth to power against injustice that pervades the entire world. Of course, the fourth story involving a black comedy involving British publisher, Timothy Cavendish played by the talented Jim Broadbent provoked much laughter in a world yet similar to the rest of the stories. Of course, Hugo Weaving is the perfect caricature of the villain (including one which he cross-dresses into a woman) across all six stories in the movie. 

If you truly want a movie that opens your mind to infinite possibilities from the mundane human drama to a world dominated by science fiction and fantasy, I highly urged you to go and watch it. The lessons of Mankind, particularly the one on why we keep making the same mistakes over and over again strikes deep in my mind. To end, I leave you with this little quote in an important conversation during the movie.

Haskell Moore: “There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. This movement will never survive, if you join them you and your entire family will be shunned. At best you will exist at pariah to be spat at and beaten, at worse to be lynched or crucified. And for what, for what, no matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.” 

Adam Ewing: What is an ocean but a multitude of drops? 

Note: You can watch this commentary from the actors and directors on the movie.

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Bernard Leong

A Pragmatic Idealist