It's elating to watch filmmakers you admire take on the impossible. David Mitchell's 2004 novel Cloud Atlas is an uphill battle incarnate. And nobody makes it to the top. A sprawling literary opus that tells six stories that range across continents from the 19th century to the post-apocalyptic future is a killer to squeeze into one movie, even a movie that runs nearly three hours. So naturally the Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lana (the former Larry, now identifying as female), took the dare. And the Matrix creators brought along their Run Lola Run buddy Tom Tykwer to share the writing and directing. The trio started by casting starry actors, led by Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant, in a multitude of roles. Just the cost of all the latex and prosthetics must have dented the reported $100 million budget (check out Berry in a Fu Manchu mustache). Like Mitchell's book, the laudable attempt is to show we're all connected. But audiences may only unite in their confusion. At one point, Hanks – playing what I believe is a tattooed Polynesian tribesman of the future – pleads in pidgin English, "Tell me the true true." OK, then. For all the spectacular settings and visionary designs, Cloud Atlas left me feeling disconnected. Sad. But that's the true true.
From The Archives Issue 1169: November 8, 2012