Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Another Time, Another Place; Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and the Rest Character-Hop in an Ambitious Adaptation of David Mitchell's Sprawling Futuristic Fantasy novelFILM OF THE WEEK

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Another Time, Another Place; Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and the Rest Character-Hop in an Ambitious Adaptation of David Mitchell's Sprawling Futuristic Fantasy novelFILM OF THE WEEK

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton

CLOUD ATLAS Cert 15, 172 min HERE at last is a film that's completely spoiler-proof. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell's 2004 novel, is a narrative extravaganza that defies summary.

It tells six different but slyly connected stories, set in 1849, about an American lawyer sailing home from the Pacific islands with an escaped slave; in 1931, about a young gay English man acting as an amanuensis to a famous older composer; in 1973, about a reporter in San Francisco investigating a nuclear power conspiracy; in the present day, about a dodgy elderly publisher trapped in a care home in Scotland; in 2144, about an enslaved clone in Neo-Seoul stirring rebellion; and lastly, in the post-apocalyptic 24th century, in Hawaii, when life has reverted to primitivism and savagery.

Okay so far? In the book, each of these stories is told in a different mode: journal, letters, noir thriller, satirical comedy, forensic examination and pidgin English. And in each successive story, a text or deed from the previous stories plays a crucial role. The novel is further ingeniously structured to be like a nest of Russian dolls -- so we get the first half of each of the first five stories in chronological sequence, then the whole of the most futuristic one in the centre, then of this pottily abundant novel. It's as if Mitchell had set out to write a book that defied adaptation. It has been adapted, in a labour of love, by Lana (formerly Larry) and Andy Wachowski, who made the Matrix trilogy, and the German director Tom Tykwer, who made Run Lola Run and Perfume.

The most trenchant decision they have taken is to run all the stories in parallel, crosscutting back and forth between each of the six strands constantly.

Thus they come to crisis more or less simultaneously.

Then they have taken the quite outrageous step of having the main actors -- Tom Hanks (terrible!), Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw -- all play different roles in each of the strands, under masses of make-up and prosthetics.

They often cross ethnicities and genders, so that Berry plays a white Jewish woman, Weaving a bullying female nurse, Sturgess a Korean, etc. …

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