June 19, 2014
People are still talking about that unfortunate year at the Oscars when Paul Haggis’ “Crash” won Best Picture over “Brokeback Mountain.” The 2004 winner is here on our list (check the bottom portion), but this week, Paul Haggis returns to the same form with “Third Person,” which jumps from Paris to Rome to New York as it traces the hidden connections between three very different men played by Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody and James Franco. That got us thinking about our favorite films that have multiple story lines that either run simultaneously, or are interconnected in some way. Here’s our list of nine of the best indies that use hyperlinked narratives, and four that aren’t so memorable. Let us know your favorites in the comments. “Third Person” opens June 20.
“Cloud Atlas” Dir. Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer (2012)
One of the most expensive independently produced features of all time, “Cloud Atlas” not only went to new lengths for funding, but it also took the idea of interlocking, ensemble stories and added and additional twist. The film features six plot lines set across different eras spanning from the 19th century Pacific Islands, to modern day London, to 22nd century Korea, to a post-apocalyptic future. But what made “Cloud Atlas” even more interesting was the choice to have the massive cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Jim Broadbent, Ben Winshaw and Susan Sarandon) portray varying characters in each of the time periods, suggesting that their souls were in truth being reincarnated over and over again, repeatedly connecting with the same lives. That cross-casting earned the film some criticism for putting the actors in different degrees of makeup to convincingly play varying races. “Cloud Atlas” remains polarizing for that reason, but no one can deny that it’s a stunning representation of how souls connect through space and time and maintains the idea that science fiction, while featuring technology or futuristic settings, should also have a heart. (Casey Cipriani)