Feb 22 2013 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Matrix trilogy directors the Wachowski siblings team up with Run Lola Run helmer Tom Tykwer to bring British author David Mitchell’s sprawling sci-fi novel to the big screen.
A head-spinning plot explores how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future and stars the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant in multiple roles.
The Wachowski’s only other post-Matrix work was the misjudged Speed Racer and, while they never plunge those depths here, Cloud Atlas is another odd concoction.
This was long considered one of many ‘unfilmable’ books, so just to see it in cinemas may mark an achievement for many.
All three directors also wrote the story for the screen and the six interwoven tales take us from an 1849 ocean voyage across the Pacific to a post-apocalyptic Hawaii in 2321, as well as spells in a 1936 Edinburgh, seventies California, present-day Britain and Korea in the year 2144.
The opening montage sets the pattern with an introductory hop across the various time lines.
Connections between characters are mapped out fairly effectively but, while the story is very ambitious, there are times when you won’t have a clue what’s going on.
An expository first hour is fairly dull as things are set in motion and the purpose that drives more exciting, later scenes is absent.
And there’s no getting away from the fact that Cloud Atlas is more than a little barmy.
Cast members change race, age and even gender, often wearing some dodgy-looking prosthetics, with some of the performances working well and others just not working at all.
The lowlight is Hanks’ Irish accent, although the way his character deals with a critic of his novel is a real jaw-dropping, memorable moment.
There’s the bizarre sight of Hugo Weaving as a female care home nurse and Hugh Grant as a cannibal.
You wonder why Grant and fellow star Susan Sarandon bothered turning up, such is the slender screen time they both fill.
Faring much better is Jim Broadbent, who sweeps up most laughs, culminating in a random Scotland/England rugby game-inspired pub brawl. Weaving also leaves his mark as the aforementioned female, a gun-toting hitman and devil on Tom Hanks’ shoulder during the Hawaii scenes.
There’s no doubt that The Wachowski’s know how to film eye-catching visuals and period settings, futuristic landscapes and a slow-motion car crash into a river are fittingly sumptuous for such an imaginative and ambitious project.
Cloud Atlas treads a fine line between genius and insanity, tipping more on the side of the latter.
But one thing’s for sure, you’ll be talking about it afterwards.