In David Mitchell's superb novel Cloud Atlas, six interconnected stories, set in dates ranging from the distant past, through the present, to a dystopian future, ingeniously nestle together like Russian dolls. Still, the book at least tells the tales chronologically and consecutively, moving up through history and then back down again. In hopes of filming an apparently unfilmable text, the Wachowskis and Tykwer have made the brave choice to relate all six stories concurrently, cutting feverishly from one to the next, trusting that coherence will somehow get provided by Mitchell's overarching themes and by the gimmick of casting the same actors in different roles. Well, their trust is misplaced: Brave this effort assuredly is, but successful it ain't. Although the visuals frequently dazzle, the multiple narratives play like what they are – broken fragments that never bond, swiped from a book that seems less adapted than dismantled. It's all rather like spending nearly three hours with a manic channel-surfer who just won't settle that itchy finger down – so much on offer, so little to watch.
Sept. 9, 11:30 a.m., Winter Garden; Sept. 15 a.m., Elgin
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