out of five
: 130 mins
Cameron Crowe’s inferior remake of an excellent Spanish thriller is
watchable and well-cast, but lacks the pace and suspense of the original and is ultimately disappointing.
Writer-director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) calls Vanilla Sky a ‘rock and roll cover version’ of Spanish director Alejandro 'The Others’ Amenabar’s original and extremely enjoyable thriller Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes).
However, though he has upped the pop culture references and shoe-horned in his own record collection for a soundtrack, the film lacks the pacing and the suspense of the original. (It should also be pointed out that the original film –currently hard to track down on video or DVD- is being shown on Channel 4 on February 2nd).
Tom Cruise plays David Aames, a millionaire playboy who has inherited his father’s publishing company. At his birthday party (at which you can play Spot The Celeb), he instantly falls for Sofia (Penelope Cruz, reprising her role from the original film), the girl his best friend (Jason Lee) has brought along as his date, promptly nicks her off him and spends the evening with her.
Not surprisingly, Cruise’s decidedly unstable on-off bed-partner (Cameron Diaz) is none too happy about this and sure enough, she gives Cruise a lift and then deliberately crashes the car, killing herself and horribly disfiguring Cruise.
When Cruise finally comes round after surgery, he discovers that he has to wear a phantom-of-the-opera-like mask, and shortly after this, Strange Things start happening. Is it all a dream? A hallucination? A conspiracy by ‘the Seven Dwarves’ (his company’s stockholders)? Or something altogether more sinister?
The best thing about the original film was that it kept you guessing at
every turn – no sooner did you think you knew what was going on then –WHAM!- that was ripped from under you and you were forced to think again.
Here, however, everything happens much more slowly (Vanilla Sky is a good 18 minutes longer than the original and it shows), with a resulting loss of both pacing and suspense.
It has to be said, too, that it’s hard to find any sympathy for a character whose biggest problem is a choice between Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz.
Similarly, though his character is meant to be vain and narcissistic, Cruise overdoes the preening to the point where he’s actually in danger of being out-acted by his own (decidedly odd-looking) nipples.
Still, that’s not to say that there isn’t a fair amount to enjoy here,
particularly the memorable opening sequence of a deserted Times Square in New York (for which the film-makers shut down 8 blocks for 3 hours).
Similarly, the supporting cast are superb – Diaz is outstandingly sexy,
Jason Lee is as excellent as ever, and there’s great support from Noah
Taylor ("Tech support!"), Tilda Swinton and Kurt Russell as Cruise’s
psychiatrist who is trying to make sense of it all.
Sadly, however, the film loses points for criminally wasting Ginger Goddess Alicia Witt as a receptionist…
In all fairness, it also has to be said that Crowe’s soundtrack doesn’t harm the film at all, particularly with the ‘Good Vibrations’ sequence – a definite highlight.
To sum up, then, Vanilla Sky is disappointing, if only because the original film shows that it could easily be snappier, shorter and more suspenseful. However, a great cast, a decent soundtrack and some memorable scenes make it ultimately worth watching. (But see the original if at all humanly possible).