Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Waskowski, Lara Waskowski
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving.
Written by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Waskowski, Lara Waskowski and (book) David Mitchell
Running Time: 172 mins
Release date: 22nd February 2013
In a season of extremely long films (Lincoln, Django Unchained, Les Mis), now comes the longest. At five minutes short of three hours, the directors of The Matrix films and the man behind the ultra-cool Run Lola Run, have joined forces to bring David Mitchell’s impressive novel to the screen. Is it a numb bum experience? Or a captivating modern epic? I can say that its running time is not a problem at all. How I feel about the film is so mixed up its hard to know where to start.
Six stories across time are interlinked by six different souls, beginning in the 1800s where young lawyer, Adam, has been sent to the Pacific to make a deal for his family who are in the slave trade but is slowly being poisoned by a doctor he has looked up to. Then to 1930 Britain, and a young,struggling, homosexual composer, fixated by the journal of the lawyer, is having to work for a legendary composer while dreaming of creating his own piece. 1970s San Francisco and a reporter is caught up in a story of conspiracy in a power plant, triggered by meeting the composer’s former lover.
Move on to modern day England and book editor, up to his eyes in debt, and with the manuscript about the reporter’s adventures, finds fame when a thug whose book wasn’t selling does after an act of violence. Once he has paid off his debts, he still has nothing and turning to his brother, finds himself incarcerated in a retirement home. Move forward to the future and Korea where a clone bred waitress, who has seen a fragmented clip from a film about the editor’s life, becomes the main focus of solving injustice and freedom within her crumbling society. Finally, on a distant planet. a tribesman, fighting for survival from the local savages, has an encounter with a woman from another world as they on in search of god-like figure, that of the woman from Korea.
Throughout the film, the interweaving stories jump from one part to the next, so you follow these people’s lives in bite size sequences that will then bounce from one time frame to the next, installing the thread of “we are all connected in one way or another”. It does take a little time to get use to and once you are there, you suddenly find yourself hooked, even if it does become irritating, especially when you reach a cliffhanger and it never completes the action until you have been propelled to another scene. While the themes are connected, you do wonder if these tales will amount to something other than just vinaigrettes about love, life, ambition, greed, death and a host of other human emotions.
The visuals are incredibly impressive, especially the sections involving the young waitress in a mixed world of neon and graffiti, in a futuristic Korea. The Wachowskis (who were brothers but now one had a sex change) now how to handle these scenes and even though their past films have failed to hit the mark, they certainly knew how to make them look good. Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer is given the more human dramas and he keeps the pacing tight.
Playing with time lines and sequences are one thing but the cast of actors not only appear in their own tales but are given the task of multiple roles throughout the other stories. Sometimes this works, while others it certainly doesn’t and it is these moments when the film fails. Its certainly an ambitious way of connecting the tales but some of the cast struggle, most notably Tom Hanks.
Hanks is a fine actor and when he is given a character he can play, he is tremendous. He falls down when expected to deliver accents. As the hard-nosed Irish writer, it produced unintentional giggles and the Scottish landlord does make you wonder what part of Scotland his American accent comes from. Halle Berry, finally allowed to show why she won the Oscar, does a good job. The strong points are the British members of the cast.
Jim Broadbent’s main section has plenty of comic relief and he is a blast. Jovially bouncing along as the nervous, bumbling book editor planning to escape from his forced imprisonment his sections bring a smile throughout, while Ben Whishaw proves he is a face to watch as the frustrated composer. Its also nice to see Hugh Grant allowing to show he can do more than floppy-haired Englishmen, some roles completely unrecognisable.
So does the film work? Surprisingly, with all the changes and editing it does. It’s a bold and ambitious story that constantly walks that fine line between being incredibly meaningful and utterly pretentious but no matter what your view point, it is never dull and always impressive and if you are willing to invest in it’s running time, its a satisfying cinematic experience. Sure it won’t be for everyone but if you allow it into your world, you will get something rich from it. It’s the best film The Wachowskis have produced since the original Matrix and one that will stay with you long after you have seen it.