Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe) 2001

Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe’s pretty remake of Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) changes so little that one could almost think his true inspiration was Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho, which was nearly identical to Hitchcock’s. It’s undeniably an entertaining film, since the original version of the film was such an exciting experience, but most of the changes that were made have a negative effect on the experience. As a result, Vanilla Sky comes recommended only if you have seen Abre los Ojos

The film is a cleverly plotted thriller, and almost nothing in that plot has changed in the film’s Anglicization. The biggest change is that Tom Cruise now plays the, David, lead. He’s an actor that carries a lot of baggage with him, and the film seizes on that. David, a wealthy, irresponsible media magnate is rather narcissistic, and thankfully Cruise isn’t afraid to be ugly here. We see him obsessing about his looks, and we actually get to see him work to look like he does, which is refreshing. The entire cast is filled with name actors, whose presence tends to similarly distract from their characters, but their characters don’t get to have the same thematic baggage as Cruise’s character, so his casting backfires a little. Crowe wants us to pay attention to Cruise’s stardom, but expects us to ignore Cameron Diaz’s. Most of the cast is fine despite this, and Diaz actually does great work in spite of her small role. Somewhat more troublesome is Jason Lee, whose tiresome smart-alecky best friend shtick feels as if it’s been imported from a different film. Penelope Cruz, as Sofia (the same character that she played in the original version of the film), has an expanded role in the remake, and runs with it. It’s by far her most impressive work in English so far, and her and Cruise have an undeniable chemistry. Crowe writes great romantic-comedy style dialogue here, and even if it detracts a bit from the film’s overall structure, the scenes that they spend together are enjoyable. 

The expanded romance seems in touch with the film’s general dumbing down. The conclusion of the film has a mind-numbingly long explanation of the plot’s events, complete with a multimedia presentation (serenaded by Sinead O’Connor!). Abre los Ojos explained what this film takes twenty minutes to explain with five minutes of screen time and two magnets. This oversimplification feels sloppy, and even if it does provide greater emotional closure, it reduces the ambiguity of the film’s final shot. Crowe’s insistence on using a great deal of stock footage to reflect David’s state of mind also fails more often than it succeeds. In an attempt to make the somewhat cold and obtuse film feel warmer and more acceptable, the footage that he chooses is mundane, obvious stuff. Finally, Crowe’s soundtrack to the film is perfectly acceptable (Radiohead and Sigur Ros’ inclusion particularly), but still doesn’t compare to Amenabar’s soundtrack in the original, which used spaced out trip-hop rhythms to reinforce the film’s dreamy feel. Despite the negative changes, the film is better looking than the original, thanks to cinematographer John Toll. Crowe hasn’t exactly ruined what the original has offered, either, even if he’s reduced its sense of pathos. The bottom line is that Vanilla Sky still offers more than the average Hollywood film. 



Jeremy Heilman