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dir-scr Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
prd Stefan Arndt, Grant Hill, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, James D'Arcy, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, David Gyasi, Keith David
release US 26.Oct.12, UK 22.Feb.12
12/Germany Warner 2h52
Human connections: Berry and Hanks
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Only a mad genius would attempt to make a movie from David Mitchell's epic novel about generations connected through storytelling. Bring on Tykwer and the Wachowskis. This multi-faceted epic stumbles here and there, but much of it is breathtaking.
Six people are linked together as their stories are passed down through the generations. Returning from the South Pacific in 1849, American lawyer Adam (Sturgess) falls ill but shows kindness to a stowaway ex-slave (Gyasi). In 1936 Edinburgh, musician Robert (Whishaw) starts his career transcribing the work of a great composer (Broadbent). In 1973 San Francisco, journalist Luisa (Berry) gets a tip about a dodgy situation at a nuclear plant. In present-day London, publisher Timothy (Broadbent) is trapped in a nursing home by his brother (Grant) and plots a daring escape. In 2144 Neo Seoul, replicant Sonmi-451 (Bae) is interrogated by an official (D'Arcy) after starting an uprising alongside a notorious rebel (Sturgess). And on an island in the distant future, goatherd Zachry (Hanks) and an off-worlder (Berry) try to get help when they're attacked.
All of the actors turn up in each story, often almost unrecognisable as characters who are essentially variations on each other despite changes in race and gender. For example, Weaving is always a nemesis, whether a hitman, sinister demon or brutal nurse. Hanks' characters are more complex: strong-willed and sometimes badly misguided or downright evil. D'Arcy is the only one who plays the same character in two segments: Rufus is Robert's young lover and Luisa's aged informant.
Of course, this requires vast amounts of make-up, which varies from clever to witty to laughably unconvincing. And the actors are clearly having a ball in each elaborately rendered scenario. Hanks, Broadbent and Grant are the most entertaining in this sense, as they continually pop up in lively, unexpected places. Whishaw, D'Arcy and Bae lend the film some potent emotional resonance. And Sturgess and Sarandon kind of get lost in the shuffle.
In the end, the filmmakers overstate the usual themes of human connection: actions from the past have impact on the future, people continue to make the same mistakes, violence never solves anything, love is all we need. None of this is enlightening or delicate enough for us to be inspired by it, but the film is assembled with such bravura that there isn't a dull moment in nearly three hours. In fact, it's a frequently jaw-dropping spectacle packed with humour, emotion and drama.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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