Well, damn. After a prolonged period of radio silence, this week has seen a flurry of activity regarding “Cloud Atlas,” the adaptation of David Mitchell‘s acclaimed best-seller by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski. On Tuesday, it was announced that the film would make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, yesterday saw the first images start to leak out, and overnight, the first trailer for the film leaked online. And, boy, what a trailer.
Running close to six minutes (somewhat appropriate for a film that weighs in at 164 minutes altogether), it’s our first look at the film’s eclectic cast, which includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Bae Doona, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D’Arcy and Hugo Weaving, and the disparate worlds that the directors have created: a Pacific sea expedition in the 19th century, Belgium in the 1930s, San Francisco in the 1970s, London in the present day, Korea in a dystopian future, and Hawaii at the end of time.
As big fans of the book, we’ve wondered for some time if the filmmakers would be able to come anywhere close to its material, but we have to confess that this is pretty stunning, for the most part. The production values look incredibly high, the scope and ambition and variety is like nothing else we’ve seen in a long time, and the cast, aided by some excellent make-up, look to be rising to the occasion; we can’t remember the last time we saw Hanks or (more briefly) Grant look so engaged in their material (and if you’ve ever wanted to see Hanks as a goateed, balding London gangster, or Grant as a warpainted cannibal, the chance has finally arrived).
We have no idea what you’ll make of this if you’re unfamiliar with the book. And we have no clue if this’ll actually work as a whole. Neither the Wachowskis nor Twyker have been totally on their game for a while, and there’s stuff that gives us pause here; Halle Berry’s flat line readings, Jim Sturgess in Asian-face, some clunky lines. But we’re also sort of in love with the sheer boldness of what they’re trying, and we’re dying to see more. So what do you think? Does it look like an under-the-radar film of the year contender? Or the next “Southland Tales?” Let us know in the comments section once you’ve watched the trailer below (an HD version should be along before the end of the day; we’ll update as and when it comes in.) “Cloud Atlas” will premiere at TIFF in about six weeks, before hitting theaters on October 26th, 2012.