Bae Doona Cast in "Cloud Atlas"
Late last month a highly exciting piece of casting news for anyone interested in Korean enteratainment was announced: that of Bae Doo Na in the film adaptation of the classic novel Cloud Atlas. The film is directed by the Washowskis and Tom Twyker, and stars a mixed bag of celebrities that includes Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent. Bae Doo Na has been cast as Sonmi~451, a clone who works as a server in a dystopian future version of Korea.
This is great news on several different levels. One is simply that this is a very rare instance of a Korean actress starring in a big-budget, mainstream Hollywood film. Bae Doo Na is also an excellent choice both for her international status and for her acting skills. In some ways she's the natural choice, in fact, because she's starred in two of the handful of Korean films in recent memory to gain an international audience- Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, an instant Korean classic, and The Host, the highest-grossing Korean film of all time. She's been widely praised for her acting. I personally have seen her only in dramas such as How to Meet a Perfect Neighbor, where I found her to be a good actor but didn't see any traces of the charisma and screen presence with which she's won her reputation. I suspect, however, that she's one of those actresses who does best in very intense roles (as indeed she's mostly played so far in her film career).
I am slightly disappointed that Im Soo Jung didn't get the role, as she was so fantastic in 2006's I'm a Cyborg But That's Ok, about a girl who believes she's a robot; but she doesn't have the international status Bae Doo Na does. She would have been a great fit however, with her gamine face of eerie beauty, and her role as a fragile, destructive "cyborg" in I'm a Cyborg is not unlike that of Sonmi~451.
Cloud Atlas is an award-winning epic novel that's hard to categorize; it's more historical fiction than science fiction, but since it shifts from past to present to an imagined future, it's hard to pin down. I frankly found it dull and frustrating, its execution outmatched by its ambition, but the story of Sonmi, one of six interconnected stories that make up the novel, stands out like a gem - gripping and precise and the only story to move me emotionally. For that story alone, and Bae Doo Na's peformance in a complex, fascinating role, the film should be worth watching.