Cloud Atlas shoots for the moon but misses
Big has always been beautiful to Lana and Andy Wachowski, writer-directors of the visually stunning Matrix trilogy.
The first instalment of their epic science-fiction saga pushed the boundaries of digital trickery and introduced the slow-motion "bullet time" effect, which has been copied countless times.
The Matrix Reloaded and concluding chapter The Matrix Revolutions married mind-bending meta-physics with big-budget spectacle, to varying degrees of success.
Even when their sprawling vision tied itself in narrative knots, the Wachowskis' determination to expand the horizons of traditional popcorn fodder was refreshing.
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V For Vendetta and a live- action version of Speed Racer were both beautiful messes that dazzled the retina and occasionally fired the mind.
And bold ambition shimmers in every frame of Cloud Atlas, the siblings' chronologically fractured adaptation of David Mitchell's novel, co-directed by Tom Tykwer, of Run Lola Run fame.
The multi-layered narrative ricochets between several time frames in which a starry cast including Halle Berry, James D'Arcy, Hugh Grant, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving and Ben Whishaw adopt myriad guises with the aid of prosthetics and, in Hanks's case, one hilariously strangled accent.
Like the book, the film requires a certain amount of patience as the script sets various plot wheels in motion – spanning six different eras from an 1849 slave ship to 1936 Cambridge, 1973 California, present day London and various version of the far future. Sounds exhausting? It is. As the ensemble cast members take on an endless variety of roles, characters, descendents and who know what else?
In the far future, these stories gradually knit together.
Cloud Atlas shoots for the moon and narrowly misses.
Production design is jaw-dropping and the cast give their all.
However, some segments including Broadbent's incarceration in the nursing home are superfluous, bloating a languid three-hour running time that will be an endurance test too far for some buttocks.