Cloud Atlas is a movie that lives up to its tagline, "Past. Present. Future. Everything is connected." Yes, it's all connected in very broad themes and generalizations. Cloud Atlas is a big muddled mess that tries to encompass everything and accomplishes little.
The movie is composed of six vignettes, each taking place in a different time period. Each story has a wildly different tone and it's very jarring how the movie constantly jumps between the stories. It kept me interested, as I was waiting for a profound connection that never materialized. It jumps so much that it is impossible to become connected to individual characters or storylines. Some of the stories are mildly engaging and some are outright clunkers.
I didn't read the novel, although I can see where the story may have worked as a book. There is not enough time in a movie format for the audience to adjust to the shifting between the different tones of the stories. Perhaps different editing would have resolved this problem, but it was a huge reason that the movie failed for me. In particular, I was driven nuts by the Jim Broadbent's zany nursing home antics and the baby-talk language between Hanks and Berry while they are navigating a primitive future Earth. It was bad!!!
A style choice that occasionally worked, but was mostly cringe worthy (I'm looking at you Hanks!!!) involved having the main actors play several different characters. I've never seen a movie with so much prosthetic make-up. Some of it very poorly done, looking more like stage make-up. It was often so fake looking, that I think it may have been an intentional choice that didn't work. The entire movie had so many clashing tones and styles, that who knows?
This movie was a overwrought mess.