Over a decade ago, Larry (now Lana) and Andy Wachowski created the dazzling, mind-blowing world within “The Matrix.” In 2012, the moviemaking siblings try to recreate that magic in “Cloud Atlas,” their cinematic interpretation of the novel by David Mitchell. The film is big, beautiful, and, to be brutally honest, more than a little confusing.
The Wachowskis gathered Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and other top-notch performers to play multiple roles in a story that takes place across six different time periods. Hanks, for instance, appears as both 19th century surgeon Dr. Henry Goose and Zachry, a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world where language has been compacted into verbal short-hand.
Hanks seems to have the most fun as Dermot Hoggins, a contemporary writer and author of “Knuckle Sandwich.” When a critic ravages his novel, Hoggins becomes an instant publishing sensation through his extreme response to the bad reviews.
Arguably, the 22nd Century serves as the most horrific backdrop for one subplot. In the city of Neo Seoul, consumerism has become the ultimate reason for being. Here, Korean actress Doona Bae plays Sonmi-451, a fabricated restaurant worker who ultimately rebels against her forced captivity. Sonmi and the other servers know no life other than the one inside the restaurant.
“Cloud Atlas” jumps back and forth between time periods to reinforce the links between each story. The main theme here is that actions, both good and bad, cause a ripple effect through the centuries. The concept of freedom portrayed in an old 20th Century film have, for example, a powerful effect on the manufactured Sonmi-451 in her futuristic world.
The performers, especially Hanks, Berry, and Weaving, stretch their acting muscles during this ambitious movie. Each plays several unique characters while maintaining the common thread that ties them together. Hanks and Berry are especially compelling as researcher Isaac Sachs and journalist Luisa Rey in 1973. Sachs can feel his spiritual and emotional connection to Luisa immediately, but their relationship is cut tragically short.
It is impossible, though, to keep track of who exactly is playing who during the three-hour running time, but the final credits do show all the roles played by each performer. Some characters only appear in photographs that show up on walls and mantles, though.
Overall, Lana and Andy Wachowski deserve credit for tackling such a complicated work as “Cloud Atlas.” Even with a wealth of acting talent, though, the siblings still couldn’t reach the high clouds of success, though.
“Cloud Atlas,” rated R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use, currently is playing in theaters.