David Mitchell’s 2004 source novel was deemed unfilmable because of its elaborate structure, interweaving six apparently unrelated stories, and its historical sweep.
The lives of various individuals over 600 years are connected, from a sea voyage in the 19th Century to a civilisation 500 years in the future, with their actions having far-reaching repercussions.
The tale that fares best is of a rebel leader in the Seoul of the future, but the less visually flashy sections – an ageing publisher imprisoned in an old folks’ home, a gay composer tricked by his musical hero – also have an eccentric appeal.
But the film is not helped by its 171-minute running time.
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Also problematic is the bold decision to give the cast several parts, meaning that its stars (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant) are often unrecognisable under wigs and heavy make-up.
Yet its three directors, Andy and Lana Wachowski, makers of The Matrix, and Tom (Run Lola Run) Tykwer have done a commendable job bringing the hugely ambitious book to the screen.
> Some very important questions are answered in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (PG: Walt Disney), director Sam Raimi’s vibrantly colourful flight of fairy-tale fantasy.
How did charlatan circus magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) end up as the Wizard in the Land of Oz?
And what caused the Wicked Witch of the West to become so evil?
Following the established yellow brick road pattern, Diggs is whisked from Kansas to Oz by tornado where he gains some unusual travelling companions, including a flying monkey and china girl, while Munchkins regularly burst into song.
It’s good-looking and fun to watch, but while the film tries hard to be an original adventure as well as paying tribute to The Wizard Of Oz, it lacks the emotion of the 1939 Judy Garland classic.
The thin plot simply fills in the back stories of L. Frank Baum’s much-loved characters, like Glinda (a saccharine Michelle Williams).
> Themes of sex, death and revenge are very much in evidence in Gothic thriller STOKER (18: Twentieth Century Fox) in which India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) discovers on her 18th birthday that her father has been killed in an accident.
She has never met his brother, but uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) appears at the funeral and soon makes himself at home.
He gets very cosy with the teenager’s emotionally distant mother (Nicole Kidman), but India is not so easily won over and her suspicions about his motives increase at the same time as his not-so-subtle interest in her becomes abundantly clear.
The potboiler script is elevated by the film’s visual style, the superb score and expert performances.
Kidman’s slightly scary face is used to good effect, Goode oozes malevolent charm and Wasikowska skilfully keeps you guessing as to whether India is an angel or a monster.