This film tells (if I’m counting right) six different stories set at six different points in time, one in the present, three in the past, and two in the future. (Come to think of it, the last story is set at two different times in the future, so maybe there are seven stories.) The main actors appear in multiple roles, even crossing racial and gender lines and becoming downright unrecognizable. Hugh Grant at one point looks like an aging James Caan, and his lovely wife is a secondary role played by one of the film’s male actors. Grant is even less identifiable as a Korean villain. He has four other roles as well. I initially didn’t realize a Cockney gangster was one of the six roles played by Tom Hanks until I saw the end credits.
Other actors playing six parts include Haile Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and Doona Bae. Jim Broadbent has a slightly easier time of it with a mere five roles, and Susan Sarandon has just four.
The film switches back and forth across time rather than telling the stories in sequence, which helps emphasize the interconnections but also makes the multiple plot threads harder to keep straight. This is especially true early on.
As it happened, I watched roughly the first half hour of the film, got interrupted by something, and then started it over a few days later. I’m glad I did. The part I’d seen made a lot more sense the second time through and helped me follow the rest, so you might want to do this deliberately, sort of like taking a practice run at the film before you watch it in earnest.
At nearly three hours it’s a long movie but worth the effort to absorb. I liked it, though I suspect not everyone will. It covers so much territory, though, that almost anyone will find some part they like. The film’s genres include historical drama, adventure, mystery, suspense, comedy, and science fiction.
Following are two trailers, the first running 2 1/2 minutes and the second a bit over 5 1/2. The latter may give you a clearer notion of the film.