Tom Cruise is one of the most polarizing stars in Hollywood, but also one of the biggest. With hit films like Jerry Maguire, Born on the Fourth of July, The Mission Impossible series, and Minority Report, Cruise has proven that he is one of the more outlandish and versatile talents working today. With his latest blockbuster Oblivion hitting theaters this month, I felt it was timely to look back at some of his work, and while many have their opinion on which Tom Cruise film is his best, personally, I feel that the ambitious Vanilla Sky is his true masterpiece. Based on a Spanish film entitled Open Your Eyes, Vanilla Sky follows David Aames, a successful owner of a magazine publisher, who one day meets the love of his life, Sofia. Soon after, he gets in a car accident, and battles between reality and surreal dreams. Vanilla Sky when it came out was met with overall mixed reviews, with the film scoring a mediocre forty percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and despite its box office success, the film failed to truly connect with audiences on DVD, with the film now being buried in bargain bins in the back of stores, and left to die on Netflix Instant Watch, which is too bad, because its one of the more visually and emotionally potent films of recent memory.
Tom Cruise performance is the hinge point on whether or not the viewer will enjoy it. A lot of critics really did not like Cruise in the film, and felt that his performance created an arrogant character that was hard to truly root for. Personally, Cruise’s performance is the highlight. Cruise’s David Aames goes on a journey, and the closer the audience gets to him, the more warm his character is. Cruise stretches himself here, giving a performance that comes from the heart, rather than his natural charm, which is why I feel this is his career’s best performance.
The rest of the cast besides Cruise is also fantastic. Penelope Cruz is the love interest of Aames, and she pulls it off well. Her great charm and personality make the audience feel why David would do anything to be with her. Cameron Diaz gives one of her more out-of-the-box performances, and it is perhaps her best. She plays the sex appeal up perfectly, but when her personality flips, we truly are scared of her. Other actors like Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, and Kurt Russell have short parts, and all take advantage of their roles. The core of the film is Sofia and Aames relationship, and the romantic relationship is beyond charming. Seeing Aames just fight for her, without prevailing, builds up the film’s emotion, which leads to its final moments, which are some of the more beautiful, emotionally powerful, and tastefully done moments to ever end a film on. The ending gets me every time, with tears being shed after each viewing, and that is due to the power of the relationship.
Also stepping outside of their box is director Cameron Crowe, who is mostly known for great coming of-age fare like Almost Famous and Say Anything, and like Cruise, he gives it his best. Crowe’s direction here is fantastic, as he brings a unique style that really adds to the film. Crowe, along with cinematographer John Toll, shoot some great shots, including a grand shot of an empty Times Square. Adding to the film’s aesthetics is the great soundtrack. Artists such as Sigur Ros, The Chemical Brothers, and Radiohead contribute great pieces, that add both to the mystique and psychedelic nature to the flick, along with a couple pieces that add more emotional impact to a few scenes. It’s an overall great collection of unique music.
The best element about the film, and what always gets me excited to watch it, is how unique Vanilla Sky truly is. It’s always a great experiences to see something never seen before in a film, someone going outside of the box, taking different chances. While being unique doesn’t make a movie great automatically, with the right execution, it can make for a truly special experience.
I can not quite promise that you will love Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, I can’t even guarantee that you will mildly enjoy it. What I can promise is that it’s one of the most unique cinematic experiences of recent memory, and for film fans, that is not something to pass up.
Take a Drink: when Tom Cruise’s face is disformed
Do a Shot: when you see Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki
Take a Drink: whenever the move gets trippy, which should be a lot.