David Mitchell's 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas” was ambitious, sometimes confounding, and absolutely riveting. Viewers are likely to find the film “Cloud Atlas” — written and directed by Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix”) — even more ambitious, possibly more confounding, and very nearly as riveting.
It's more ambitious because the structure of the book, its trademark peculiarity, simply wouldn't work onscreen. It comprises six stories, each within a different genre, set in a different time and place, with a different group of characters. The stories are presented in what has been called a “nesting doll” order: With the exception of the central tale, their first halves are presented in chronological order, followed by their second halves in reverse order. Designated by year, it would look like this: 1849 (I), 1937 (I), 1973 (I), 2012 (I), 2144 (I), a post-apocalyptic adventure in its entirety, 2144 (II), 2012 (II), 1973 (II), 1937 (II), 1849 (II).