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Synopsis: Based on Alejandro Amenábar's (The Others) film Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes). David Ames (Tom Cruise) is a playboy, a media mogul who can play with any toy in the world he wants, including people. When he falls in love with his best friend's girlfriend Sofia (Penelope Cruz) this causes a few problems...especially with his girl of the moment Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz). The next day while arguing with Julie in the car she makes it clear they are to die together and drives the car off a bridge. Ames survives the crash, but with his face hideously disfigured. Soon, however, his luck seems to change when his friend's girl declares her love for him and the doctors are able to rebuild his face. But when strange things begin to happen, he starts to realize that his life has taken a turn beyond his control.
This is one of those movies, whether you love it or hate it, that will leave you reeling about it's plot days after having seen it. From the opening sequence of David Ames driving through empty New York streets and then running through them you know you are going to be dragged through a confusing melee of images. There are only two ways to handle this, fight the entire movie trying to puzzle out the logic and plot (a mere race against time really), or let yourself simply drift where director Cameron Crowe wants you to go and accept what the narrative that you are given. The fact that he uses such great music to lull you into complacency is just a bonus. Crowe has utilized his music knowledge to accent the movie and lift scenes to a new high, and Vanilla Sky is no different with all sorts of musical tastes covered here so well with The Beach Boys, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Chemical Brothers and others.
Mind a word of advice from one who has seen it? Let Cameron Crowe take you wherever he wants.
Vanilla Sky (the title is appropriately explained within the film) is a pretty major departure for Cameron Crowe. This in one way makes complete and utter sense. After Almost Famous I felt he had made his masterpiece. The one film he could never top, so what is a man left to do? The smart move as it turns out is to re-make another man's film.
Casting Tom Cruise was also a safer move for Crowe, a return to the safety and joy of Jerry Maguire. However, unlike Jerry Maguire, this is not happy material, not self discovery in a enjoyable sense. Like the original it is a changing, complicated and sometimes melancholy film. Within this setting it seems to have charged Tom Cruise with something I have only truly glimpsed before within him, big acting talent. His performance here is pretty amazing though having a Phantom of the Opera style mask on his face for chunks of the film does make it pretty hard to convey some things without a lot of physical gestures.
Truthfully the whole cast is right in there giving their best. I have never been a fan of Penelope Cruz but here she is note perfect and Cameron Diaz makes up for a lot of past lacklustre performances with a chilling and disturbing smile that always came off as cute in other flicks. The little quiet scenes between Cruise and Cruz are charming little vignettes on their own so when you see the various forms of the relationship crashing it makes it all the more stunning. A drunken night out at a club for Ames after the crash with Sofia is one such example, so many mixed emotions come to the surface during this sequence.
You may have noticed I'm not throwing out detail after detail about this flick. That would be unfair. It is a film about perceptions, reality and fantasy and it is one that sticks with you for days after you have seen it.
Cameron Crowe had to follow up Almost Famous, a film I love to pieces and while he didn't disappoint, he did throw me for a loop with this one. It is a horror, it is sci-fi, it is a love story, it is a thriller and so much more. While some of these aspects are new to Crowe and he may not handle them as well as the character relationship scenes he excels at, give the man a break. He's moving forward, breaking new ground for himself and leaving fans wondering what to expect from him down the road. Oddly, one could say this is how Vanilla Sky ends as well.
Copyright© Written By Rob Paul: Rob Paul
Tom Servo's Review:
I went into this film knowing almost nothing about it for the commercials had been thankfully vague. What a great film this is! It's one of those pieces that move along in blocks; continually shedding it's skin and changing genres.
'Vanilla Sky' stars Tom Cruise as a young and powerful magazine magnate who lives day-to-day. His life changes dramatically when he becomes horribly disfigured in a car accident.
The film is a remake of the 1997 Spanish film 'Abre los Ojos' directed by Alejandro Amenábar (who coincidentally earlier this year helmed 'The Others' starring Cruise's former counterpart Nicole Kidman.) I have not seen the original, but in my experience they are usually superior ('La Femme Nikita', 'The Vanishing' and 'Nightwatch' are three examples that come to mind right away.) If this is the case with 'Vanilla Sky', then Amenábar's version must truly be a work of art.
One thing I was led to believe was that this film would be hard to understand. From what I'd heard, the storytelling of the film was very confusing, so I was expecting a David Lynch experience where I would spend the rest of the day in deep meditation trying to decipher it; but so was not the case. If you just sit, observe and follow the film, letting yourself be led through the labyrinth, like any good filmgoer should, all will be revealed.
The fine cast compliments each other well. Tom Cruise is especially compelling. He has not portrayed a role like this before and it takes a little getting used to. There has been a lot of talk about Penelope Cruz. I had yet to see her in a film and was eager to form an opinion for myself. While she is appealing, she's not really my type. I do, however, see the attraction that a lot of people have toward her. It is more her manner I think, than her looks. Tom Cruise's character in the film uses a word to describe her that is most appropriate. That word is 'guileless'. A strong supporting cast of Kurt Russell, Jason Lee and Cameron Diaz (who is actually frightening as Cruise's obsessed wannabe girlfriend) are all top notch.
This is a great effort by Cameron Crowe. He really expands his vision beyond the coming-of-age romantic comedy tones of his previous films. This is not a slam, but his past works have all followed a tried and true formula. Finally, a wonderfully vibrant soundtrack works in harmony with the film. Artists such as Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Underworld and even the rare treat of Sigur Ros (who never usually lend out their works) are all used to their fullest effect.
Since the movie switches gears so many times, it is hard to pin it down to a genre. I can really only describe it as a journey. And a vividly gripping one at that!
Copyright© Written By Tom Servo: Tom Servo
Commentary by Director Cameron Crowe and Composer Nancy Wilson, featuring a conversation with Tom Cruise
Two Documentaries: "Prelude To A Dream" & "Hitting It Hard"
Interview with Paul McCartney, Gag Reel
Music Video "Afrika Shox" by Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa
International Theatrical Trailer
Never-Before-Seen Teaser Trailer
Photo Gallery with Audio Introduction by Photographer Neal Preston
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Surround
FRENCH: Dolby Digital Surround
The DVD Review:
Cameron Crowe does great DVD! Just check out his treatment for the great Almost Famous package! This is another one along with the upcoming Jerry maguire that is going into my collection!
Vanilla Sky Easter Egg - Outtakes:
1. From the main menu select Special Features.
2. Then Select Photo Galleries.
3. Cursor begins at 'Audio Introduction By Photographer Neal Preston'. From there you press 'up' button and you should be on the 'special features'.
4. Then press the 'right' button to illuminate mask on the right hand side of screen. Press 'enter' and enjoy the outtakes.