Tom Cruise is the deeply shallow David Aames, who undergoes a conversion when he falls in love with Penelope Cruz (repeating her role from the original). This upsets Cameron Diaz, who commits vehicular suicide with Cruise in the passenger seat. Horribly disfigured, he nevertheless re-establishes his relationship with Cruz. And then reality starts coming apart at the seams.
The film looks terrific, and has an interestingly eclectic soundtrack (I’m amazed that they dug up “Doot Doot”…by Freur, who would evolve into Underworld). Vanilla Sky is, however, massively overlong, with a central romance that is simply not very interesting. The final revelations are not really anything we haven’t seen before, and the overall effect is ultimately anticlimactic. Cruise struts his stuff in Elephant Man Lite make-up and a mask reminiscent of the one that covered Edith Scob’s disfigured face in Eyes Without A Face (1960), and it is interesting to note that the mask and his immobilized features have no fewer expressions than his normal face.
Music is omnipresent in the film (sometimes annoyingly so), and comes through with crystalline clarity. The sound effects are very much in the background, and while the choices that have been made for rear effects are good ones, there aren’t too many of them. So music aside, this is a pretty low-key mix. There is also occasional dialogue distortion.
The picture is widescreen, but looks cropped to me. The film’s original ratio is 1.85:1, but this looks more like 1.78:1 (as is the case with Thirteen Ghosts). If this is so, this is not a trend to be encouraged. Though I’m suspicious, I will grant the disc the benefit of the doubt, however. The colours are warm and true, with excellent flesh tones, contrasts and blacks. There is a bit of grain, however, and some (faint) edge enhancement.
The extremely restrained menu is still, but is scored and has animated transitions. The extras on offer are for the most part very interesting. The commentary is by Cameron Crowe and composer Nancy Wilson (who doesn’t have that much to say). Crowe’s interest is in the film’s themes, and even when he talks about more technical aspects, he connects these elements to thematic concerns. There are two featurettes, both of which are more interesting than the usual: “Prelude to a Dream” is a very personal “making-of” narrated by Crowe, and “Hitting it Hard” follows the cast and crew on the promotion circuit. Less interesting is the interview with Paul McCartney, which is simply an Entertainment Tonight clip. Also on offer: the video for the excellent “Afrika Shox” by Leftfield and Afrika Bambaataa (and not, thank God, for McCartney’s ditty); eight photo galleries with an audio introduction by photographer Neal Preston; and two trailers (an unreleased teaser and the international trailer).
Though the film is ultimately a misfire, it’s always refreshing to see a major Hollywood production that actually has a few ideas in its head. There’s a nice consistency of tone to the extras as well.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Featurettes: “Prelude to a Dream” and “Hitting it Hard”
- Music Video
- Paul McCartney Interview
- Photo Galleries