Tom Hanks is set to star in an adaptation of David Mitchell’s brilliant Cloud Atlas, written and co-directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. While I generally support visionary directors tackling hugely entertaining, visionary material, this particular project should never, ever come to fruition.
Cloud Atlas is subversively structured, featuring overlapping, interrupted narratives linked through heady themes of humanity’s descent, redemption and rebirth. Each narrative is built upon echoes and questions lingering from the previous story, with a structural “mirror” in the center of the book, converging, reflecting and then concluding all of the stories in the second half of the novel. It’s hard to explain, and extra-nuts because the protagonist of each story is reading some sort of text (letters, a journal, etc) that tells the story of the previous protagonist, while calling into question that text’s validity.
But for all of the funhouse trickery making up the novel’s framework, Cloud Atlas is most importantly a really good story—actually, six really good stories nested within each other. With each protagonist’s journey, all of the disparate dialects, each setting in time and space, Mitchell’s writing remains authentic and compelling. And while the Wachowskis have more than proven their worth as far as visual and physical manipulation is concerned, they’ve yet to prove that they can tell a really great story, and see that story through to the end.