Vanilla Sky Review

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Charmed and charming David Aames, the princely heir to a publishing empire, is utterly captivated by Spanish dancer Sofia, to the distress of his carelessly discarded lover, Julie. The fateful consequences hurl him into a labyrinthine mystery of love, murder, conspiracy and revenge. But which of his memories are real, which a dream?


Tom Cruise loses his looks and his mind in Cameron Crowe’s much-anticipated cover version of Alejandro Amenábar’s 1997 psychological thriller, Open Your Eyes. Oscar nomination number four should surely, therefore, follow?

The character of David Aames is effectively Jerry Maguire on a bad acid trip, with disfigurement and hallucinatory alienation wiping that winning, signature smirk off his face after the crisis.
Cruise is in fact more impossibly gorgeous than ever, between affecting stints brooding in a blank mask and tormented under remarkable prosthetics, and Crowe is confident enough in our continuing delight in looking at him to attempt his darkest, most ambitious and artiest work to date. Thankfully, speculative philosophy comes with haunting visual flourish and profundity is leavened with poignance and flashes of Crowe’s customary warmth and humour.

To say much about the plot would be as cruel as the nightmarishly bizarre and relentlessly unsettling events that beset the protagonist, since much of the compelling intrigue and emotional impact come from putting some work into fathoming what is happening. Let it suffice to say that David is worn down from a cocksure man-about-town to a complete physical and mental wreck, fearful of “inviting happiness in without a full body search”.

It’s all carefully composed with suggestive references and allusions, alternating layers of dream, reality and confessional flashback related by the masked David to his understandably riveted psychologist (Russell, serving well as a baffled, tenacious interrogator on behalf of the audience).

Cruz, reprising her role from the Spanish original, meets the requirement of being enchanting, Diaz as “the saddest woman to ever hold a martini” is unnervingly nuanced between perky seductiveness and menace, and the unbalancing act is sustained by a strong supporting cast that includes Timothy Spall, Noah Taylor and Tilda Swinton.

From the eerie opening sequence, Crowe and cinematographer John Toll use New York like an autumnal fairytale realm, with Monet skies and clues to the truth sprinkled through the set decoration. As usual Crowe’s use of music (wife Nancy Wilson’s score, interwoven with the likes of Dylan, R.E.M., Radiohead and a title song composed by Paul McCartney) adds bonus dividends.

No matter how sarcastically envious men might summarize the central character’s problems — hmmm, Cruz or Diaz? Gosh, that would be torture — only a churl could find no sympathy with his guilt-wracked ordeal.

A chhallenging, slow-burning drama that demands close attention.