Director: Cameron Crowe | 135 minutes | drama, romance, science fiction, thriller | Actors: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Timothy Spall, Tilda Swinton, Michael Shannon, Delaina Mitchell, Shalom Harlow
“Vanilla Sky” is the American remake of “Abre los ojos” (1997) by Alejandro Amenábar. It is a commendable attempt by Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe to show this morality to a wider audience. With an appealing cast Penélope Cruz is allowed to redo her role and a slight dramatization of the small-scale and very Spanish original has succeeded. The core emotions from AlO remain and the move from Madrid to New York has proved to be surmountable. The story of Amenábar is universal and a repentant playboy who is affected by fate fits in perfectly with the American setting. The changes are also interesting. The opening shot of Cruise lying on a deserted Times Square is a nice find and the recurring motif of a dog being found frozen in a river by its owner is an anchor point for what is to come later in the film.
Now for the pitfalls, first of all, the great resemblance to the plot of the original. Well, it was good enough, so why change it? The solution that the creators of “Vanilla Sky” provide for untangling events may be a step too far, but it does not collapse the psychic house of cards. In some respects, “Vanilla Sky” is even a step forward. David Aames comes across as more conscientious and honest than Cesar in AlO, which makes the fact that Sofia likes him a lot more plausible. And that immediately brings us to the next stumbling block: beautiful Penélope, who has often been accused of being a lot more convincing and attractive in her mother tongue than in English. “Vanilla Sky” is arguably the best showcase of her talents since “Jámon Jámon” (1994). As is known, there was also a good personal connection between Cruise and Cruz and that is noticeable in the memorable tug-of-war between David and Sofia. Her playful and especially her European appearance immediately give Cruz the aura of an angel, necessary to make the link with the otherworldly of love, through which David transforms. This contrasts nicely with the opportunistic Julie, for whom Cameron Diaz appears to be a good choice.
Is there anything else to criticize about this film, which can be a positive surprise to virgin viewers but cannot be judged separately from the original? The ending of “Vanilla Sky” is less mysterious than that of AlO; too much is sought for solutions and you cannot create a happy ending to such a story, it is too dark for that. Anyway, a David who is nicer than Cesar was also chosen, making “Vanilla Sky” more idealistic than the Freudian AlO. And that movie poster, weren’t more actors on it?
So be it; Let’s just say playboy Tom / David is on the right track. Or not?