Matrix creators Andy and Lana Wachowski have joined up with writer and director Tom Tykwer (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Run Lola Run) to adapt David Mitchell’s bestselling novel Cloud Atlas, unfortunately proving three heads are no better than two.
Deemed unfilmable by many, including the author, Cloud Atlas is a sprawling and immensely imaginative piece of fiction told over an eon through the interconnecting tales of six individuals. Each individual short story is complete in itself but references future and past chapters through music, letters, film, scripture and a very unique birthmark.
Unlike the Man Booker Prize shortlister, the film leaves little to the imagination when linking the separate tales and the director’s decision to use the same actors to play the various characters in each story only distracts and adds to the disorderly nature of the film.
Tom Hanks (The Da Vinci Code, Toy Story) and Halle Berry (X-Men, Monster’s Ball) lead the notable cast with varying form. Jim Broadbent’s (Hot Fuzz, Moulin Rouge) different personas are entertaining and Hugh Grant (Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary) surprisingly surprises but Hugo Weaving’s (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings) portrayal of Nurse Noakes highlights the bizarrely incoherent telling of Mitchell’s vision and the disturbing overuse of prosthetics.
The two standout performances from Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, I’m Not Here) and Doona Bae (The Host, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) emphasize Cloud Atlas’s ingenious narrative exploring life, death and déjà vu with the stories of Frobisher, a talented up-and-coming composer, set in 20th century Great Britain and the dystopic tale of Sonmi-351, a 22nd century fabricant from futuristic Neo Seoul.
The novel’s success was in part due to the intelligent linking of disparate stories over time and space asking the question does fate play a part in our lives and what bonds us together.
Unfortunately Cloud Atlas the film clumsily manhandles Mitchell’s award winning literary head scratcher and the directional choices result in an over long and disappointingly disjointed film.