‘Sense8’ Review: Wachowskis Sketch Fascinating Characters in New Netflix Series

Stories filmed in nine cities around the world collide where the writer-director siblings do what they do best: create fantastic worlds

The sibling talent behind the “Matrix” films Lana and Andy Wachowski travel the world in their new series “Sense8” on Netflix — and leave a trail of mystery and supernatural phenomenon in their wake.

The Wachowskis have either latched onto society’s deepest desires or uncovered its worst nightmares in their dramatic science fiction-thriller that examines the ties that bind humanity and the remarkable flexibility of identity.

A motley collection of strangers share a common trait: They’re able to pop in and out of each other’s heads.

A transgender woman in San Francisco (Jamie Clayton), a Chicago police officer (Brian J. Smith), an Icelandic DJ in London (Tuppence Middleton), a frustrated corporate drone in Korea (Doona Bae), a bus driver in Nairobi (Aml Ameen), a Mexican movie star (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), a criminal in Germany (Max Riemelt), a restless bride-to-be in Mumbai (Tina Desai), a mysterious lone-wolf traveler (Naveen Andrews) and a tormented mother-figure Angel (Daryl Hannah) — the group members have little in common except for their ability to sense and experience the others’ worlds.

Which really becomes a problem when one member of the group is having sex and, half a world away, the others are trying to do something public like grab a coffee while sensing the other’s passion. Awkward.

It’s the ultimate in TMI. (Notably, all of the players in this game of brain-swapping are attractive in a way that you imagine they don’t mind so much. Throw a flabby, pimpled teenage boy into that mix and there might be a more violent protest from the other characters.)

Performances that stand out in this ensemble work include Middleton as Riley the DJ, Silvestre as closeted actor Lito and a face familiar to the Wachowski brand, Bae as Seoul-based Sun.

Miguel

In addition to the Wachowskis, J. Michael Straczynski and Grant Hill serve as executive producers. German director Tom Tykwer, who co-directed the Wachowskis’ 2012 film “Cloud Atlas,” directed the “Sense8” Berlin and Nairobi scenes. Director James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta,” “Ninja Assassin”) directed the Mumbai and Mexico City scenes.

“Sense8’s” Oscar-nominated director of photography, John Toll, worked with the Wachowskis on feature films “Jupiter Ascending” and “Cloud Atlas.” Production designer Hugh Bateup has worked with the sibling directors since the first “Matrix” film, while composers Ethan Stoller and Johnny Kilmek have also previously collaborated with them.

As an offering from streaming-entertainment giant Netflix, “Sense8” represents a gamble, as the material is new and the Wachowski brand could use a polish. But despite the lack of A-list Hollywood star power, the mysterious show boasts strong characters and compelling actors bringing them to life. And though the story sometimes meanders about like a child at play in a schoolyard, the premise holds enough intrigue to call viewers back to experience more.

And, yes, it’s binge-worthy.

The full 12-episode season of “Sense8” is available on Netflix starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 05, 2015.