Based on the book by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” forms a massive tapestry, connecting several simple stories set in different eras. There are period dramas interspersed with two science fiction tales and a contemporary comedy, but the non-linear storytelling doesn’t confuse at all. There are several characters to keep track of, but they’re in distinct epochs, and are likewise distinctly presented.
Oddly, the number of characters that each actor portrays doesn’t muddle the narrative. Most are recognizable despite prosthetics, but those aged by layers of effects look fake and their facial expressions and movements are noticeably hindered. And while we’re talking about flaws, Hanks’ first scene is unintelligible; his muttering and the accent aren’t a nice mix for his first wizened character.
Those aside, the stories combine into a powerful, potent picture. The rapports between friends and lovers grow organically, and their heartbreaks and failures reverberate across time. The somewhat experimental jumbling of these scenarios is a welcome, adventurous gamble that results in a trippy and moving dreamscape.