Do you ever get that funny feeling that nothing in your world is real? Is reality anything more than what you make of it? Is everyone out to get you as part of some gigantic globe trotting conspiracy, proving that you are in fact THE most important person on the planet? Then you just may be Tom Cruise! I always suspected he had problems with his ego. Napoleon complex.
However, in Vanilla Sky, Tom Cruise does not really play an egomaniac. At least he isn’t an egomaniac for the ENTIRE film. He may play a mentally unbalanced, suspiciously psychotic, and self obsessed soul… but none of that is really permanent. Cruise shines as a playboy faced with adversity, when on the verge of at last growing up, Cruise is horribly disfigured. Madly in love with a woman he has just met (Penelope Cruz), Cruise must reconcile his losses with his hopes for the future. What follows is a mind bending, romantic, and difficult bit of introspection and discovery unlike any other. Unfortunately, revealing ANY of the plot is likely to give away the film, which is really quite a credit to the kind of tight, involved storyline director Cameron Crowe presents.
It is not however, not good direction that makes this film such a gem. Rather surprisingly, it is in fact, Tommy boy himself, pulling off some of the finest acting ever seen from the Top Gun king. His character is insightful, emotional, and stinging of depth and desperation. Cameron Diaz too, really GLOWS in her delicious role of a mildly deranged love interest. Most of all though, there’s a real sense of purpose to this film. An underlying theme about the importance of life and the real value inherent to it.
As a remake, Crowe’s masterwork is… well, who the hell cares? Be honest, most normal people haven’t seen the original anyway: a Spanish film named Abre Los Ojos, which is likely quite good, even though this Hobbit doesn’t care. I’m not a big believer in judging any film by comparing it to its source material. Many waste time picking apart Harry Potter examining it via the book, or running down the latest Hollywood remake by comparison to a forgotten swan song. Sometimes, it’s inevitable, and nearly impossible to avoid fond memories associated with that once lived past. I myself have fallen prey to this; unable to forget my fond memories of the comedic classic It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World when confronted with the shattered monstrosic remake Rat Race. But in the end, each and every film must stand on it’s own two feet. Unhindered by past works, and unsupported by outside influence. More than any other, Vanilla Sky does that with strength and purpose.
Serious inspection aside, Vanilla Sky is simply a frightfully well-put together film. Somehow, it manages to hit all the usual movie high notes, treading on familiar ground, only to careen off to the left with exciting and unexpected twists of disturbing delight. The cynical and numb may clamor for bigger thrills, or declare it ridiculously predictable and unworthy of their time. However, Vanilla Sky walks a perfect balance between the bizarre and the mundane. As have other recent successful films, such as Unbreakable, Vanilla Sky clings desperately close to reality, achieving true believability, only to suck you into accepting the fantastic without reservation.
Napoleon conquered nations; Tom Cruise conquers Spain’s women. Short men have a lot to make up for. At least this time, Cruise hasn’t overcompensated. Silence the cynics; Vanilla Sky delivers on all counts.