Vanilla Sky

on December 14, 2001 by Michael Tunison
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   Give this much to Tom Cruise and writer-director Cameron Crowe: They know better than to try to fix what isn't broken. Their remake of Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar's nightmare fantasy “Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos)” is every bit as strange and creepily effective as the original--largely because, apart from some sparkling new dialogue from ace character writer Crowe (“Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire”), it's essentially the same film.

   Confidently giving what often seems to be a mirror image of Eduardo Noriega's performance in Amenábar's 1997 version, Cruise plays a publishing magnate's wealthy heir--a spoiled playboy type whose most pressing problem is how to blow off one gorgeous lover (Cameron Diaz) so that he might more conveniently pursue another (Penélope Cruz, repeating her memorable work from the Spanish version). But no sooner has this world been established than cracks begin to form in it, spinning the plot into far different genre territory. A series of intercut scenes show Cruise's character wearing a mask--apparently to cover horribly disfiguring scars on his face--as a psychologist (Kurt Russell) interviews him in prison. How these two realities intersect in the film's increasingly fragmented dreamscape is the mystery that drives the rest of the twist-filled story.

   Collaborating for the first time since their 1996 hit “Jerry Maguire,” Crowe and producer-star Cruise have come up with what feels more like an English-language dub of “Open Your Eyes” than the kind of cross-cultural reimagining such remakes usually represent. Retaining the original film's structure almost beat for beat while mimicking Amenábar's visual style, sometimes right down to specific shots, Crowe devotes his energies to fine-tuning the complex web of relationships connecting the characters, reinforced by one of his trademark eclectic song-loaded soundtracks (wife Nancy Wilson of the rock group Heart contributes bits of trippy score in those few moments when Crowe isn't playing D.J.).

   While the results don't improve upon the original version in any major way, the filmmakers have succeeded in accomplishing their apparent goal: splicing one of Hollywood's biggest stars into a mind-twisting tale most subtitle-phobic U.S. audiences otherwise never would have seen. Starring Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee and Noah Taylor. Directed and written by Cameron Crowe. Produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner and Cameron Crowe. A Paramount release. Drama/Thriller. Rated R for sexuality and strong language. Running time: 135 min

Tags: remake, psychological, dreams, sex, romance, disfigurement, doctors, magazine, executive, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, Noah Taylor, Cameron Crowe, Nancy Wilson, Abre Los Ojos, Alejandro Amenbar
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