The Wachowski Manifesto, or maybe just their apologia. Together with co-director Tom Tykwer, the W siblings have taken David Mitchell's multi-story, mutli-genre novel and made it into one (very) long and earnest plea for individual freedom and dignity in the face of oppression, whether it's gays oppressed by polite society, fabricated people oppressed by their fabricators, slaves oppressed by masters, sons oppressed by fathers, brothers oppressed by brothers, crusading journalists oppressed by corporate conspirators, or a backwoods tribesman oppressed by cannibals and personal devils. (You know, for starters.) There's a point to all the cutting from one time and place to another: the idea that boundaries of any kind are ultimately meaningless (an idea that, like most of the ideas at work here, is made perfectly explicit). Also, the notion that everything is connected and even recurring, which is why we get the same stable of actors (most prominently, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Broadbent) playing different roles (and races, and sexes). Some of the segments work better than others - the true-true is that nobody really needs to hear Tom and Halle slip in and out of pidgin English, some of the racebending makeup is deeply distracting, and Hugo Weaving as Nurse Ratched never plays as anything more than a joke. But seeing as how a critic suffers a violent death onscreen, it's probably best to accentuate the positive: the grand-scale visuals are a pleasure to behold, the various threads are woven as artfully as can be expected, and even at its goofiest, the film manages to feel like an old-fashioned epic. (And at its most serious, it can be read as a formal rejection of the Wachowskis' childhood Catholicism.) (2012) — Matthew Lickona
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