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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published January 21st 2004:

For fifty years now, samurai have cast a long shadow over world cinema. Their greatest advocate, Akira Kurosawa (son of a samurai family himself), invented the iconography of the samurai movie single-handed, as well as providing storytellers of all kinds with a set of archetypes that show no signs of fading with age. From The Magnificent Seven to the Jedi Knights to Ghost Dog, the outsider with ferocious dedication and terrifying martial prowess is part of the Tarot deck of modern culture.

Which makes it all the more ironic that Kurosawa was criticised in his native Japan for portraying an idealised and stereotypical version of the country on celluloid (which I suppose must make him the Richard Curtis of his day). Also the fact that he himself admitted that one of the biggest influences on his style was John Ford – a more monolithically American director could not be conceived of. But the imagery remains, the mystique persists, intact.

Ed Zwick takes a crack at doing Kurosawa’s legacy justice in The Last Samurai, a fictionalised retelling of the samurai rebellion of 1877, although, to ensure we gaijin turn up in sufficient numbers to recoup the sizeable budget, riding with the rebels is none other than Tom Cruise, even though he technically doesn’t make the minimum height requirement. Eh? How’s that work? I hear you wonder.

Well, Tom plays Nathan Algren, an embittered US Army officer racked with guilt about his role in atrocities committed against native Americans, reduced to being a salesman for the Winchester rifle company and trying to drink himself to death. But the appearance of old comrade Zebulon Gant (Billy Connolly – but don’t worry, somebody sticks a yari through him before very long) signals a new opportunity. The Emperor of Japan wants someone to train his new modernised army, and Tom and Billy are offered the job.

However, it turns out that not everyone is happy with the westernisation of Japan, and the Emperor has his hands full with a rebellion led by noble samurai lord Katsumoto (a fine performance by Ken Watanabe, squarely in the tradition of the great Toshiro Mifune). Despite his better judgement, Tom leads his half-trained army against the samurai and promptly gets the squaddies minced and himself captured. Inevitably, though, he comes to admire the spirit of his captors and begins to question his own loyalties…

It’s fairly clear that Tom Cruise would really like to win an Oscar for his performance in this film. If that happens, it will be rightly scorned by future generations, but there’s still much to enjoy about The Last Samurai. As I’ve already mentioned, Watanabe is extremely good as Cruise’s main sparring partner, and a little further down the cast list is a pleasing turn from Timothy Spall as an expat Brit (Spall’s presence in a couple of the Cruiser’s recent pics may be down to the great man apparently being a mad keen fan of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet). It’s very handsomely mounted and photographed – the first appearance of the samurai as they ride out of the fog, like intruders from a lost world, is wonderful – and the action sequences are extremely spiffy, ranging from Tom twirling his daisho like nobody’s business as he takes on five men single-handed, to a cool ninjas-vs-samurai skirmish, to a full-scale old-school pitched battle, of which Kurosawa himself might well have approved.

Having said that, it is rather long and a tiny bit predictable, and there’s a lot of dead wood in the cast list. (I think the end is a cop-out, too, but will say no more for fear of spoiling the plot.) And this is a film built around a very strange ambivalency. The story is partly driven by liberal angst over imperialist exploitation of Japan and elsewhere – western culture is basically depicted as mercenary and decadent. ‘Why do you hate you own kind so much?’ the villain asks Cruise at one point – I could ask the scriptwriter and director the same question. This is especially pertinent as the culture the film portrays as spiritually and morally superior to the west’s in virtually every way is that of the samurai. These guys are so noble and moral they make the Jedi look like pimps. This is a depiction of the caste far more idealised than anything Kurosawa ever put on film, and an unrealistic one (for one thing, the charming ritual where a samurai could summarily execute any passing peasant failing to show appropriate servility doesn’t make it into the film). This film is about the mythic samurai stereotype rather than the historical reality – a commercially wise choice, I suppose, but one which dumbs it down considerably.

But one thing the film is certain of: and that’s that Tom Cruise is a great, great guy. The samurai are wonderful, and they really like Tom – so imagine how much more wonderful that must make him! Yes, it’s the same old Cruiser narcissism that has so often bedevilled his attempts to be taken seriously as an actor. He doesn’t do the smile so much on this occasion, for which I suppose we must be thankful, but we do get lots of portentous voice-overs as he reveals his insights into the society of his new friends, and far too often things grind to a halt for a scene in which Tom gets to show off his range and talent for no real purpose other than to provide the award shows with a nice clip to accompany the nomination he’s hoping for. It’s this mixture of liberal angst, fetishistic hero-worship, and narcissism that takes the edge off an otherwise worthy piece of epic entertainment.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published June 21st 2005:

It’s taken a few years for anyone to follow-up the (qualified) success of 2002’s adaptation of HG Wells’ The Time Machine, but at least the latest film based on the master’s work has some serious clout behind it. I refer, of course, to the mega-budget version of War of the Worlds (they could afford a lot of things, but clearly not a definite article), directed by Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg’s film stars Tom Cruise as Ray, a blue-collar kinda guy whose obvious skills as an ace crane-driver and mechanic don’t stop him from being, as his children accurately point out, a bit of an asshole. His flat is untidy, his fridge virtually empty, and he’s completely unaware that his daughter (former Midwich resident Dakota Fanning) is disabled (or allergic to peanut butter, which is the same thing if you ask me). Yet all this doesn’t stop his ex-wife (Miranda Otto, barely appearing) from dumping them on him whe she goes away with her new bloke. However, over the course of one particularly fraught weekend Ray learns the value of being being a proper paternal figure, of responsibility, of keeping proper food in the house, and all the usual family value stuff you can probably recite for yourselves.

(Perhaps that synopsis is a little bit misleading as the movie also contains a good deal of other material, much of it far from peripheral, about civilisation being virtually destroyed by alien invaders whose hobbies include drinking blood, playing the tuba, indulging in ludicrously long-term planning, and forgetting to have their jabs before travelling abroad.)

Once you get past the change in locale and the parental guff, this is actually an astonishingly faithful adaptation of the legendary novel, faintly iffy ending and all. The tripedal Fighting Machines reach the screen intact and are appropriately iconic, even if the Martians themselves (look, it doesn’t say they’re not from Mars, all right?) look a bit too much like the Independence Day aliens. I was quite curious to see how Spielberg would distinguish his movie from ID4 and the multitude of other War of the Worlds rip-offs that have preceded it to the screen. And he manages it quite inventively, by resolutely making this a film about a handful of characters caught up in a catastrophe – a personal film, rather than a full-blown epic. The story unfolds from Ray’s perspective, rather than that of a scientist or fighter pilot or the president – there’s no sense of a wider picture beyond all-consuming chaos and desperation, and the result is a pervasive atmosphere of nervy unease. Most of the big set-pieces of the Fighting Machines destroying cities and crushing all resistance happen off-screen, definitely not what one would expect from a summer blockbuster.

Equally unexpected is the rather linear storyline (basically Tom and the kids running away from the Martians for two hours). But this does give the film a certain latitude, which Spielberg uses to produce a series of stunning set-piece sequences, a dazzling showcase for his unmatched directorial skills. His mastery of technique is casual but undeniable. a longish segment where Cruise hides in a cellar with Tim Robbins (playing an amalgam of two characters from the novel) probably outstays its welcome a bit, but Robbins is always good value even if the scenes between him (6′ 5″) and Cruise (5′ 7″) vaguely recall Gandalf and Bilbo having a natter.

It would of course be inconsiderate not to mention all the references to Byron Haskin’s 1953 adaptation of the story, of which there are many (including the obligatory cameos by the original leads), nor the obvious allegorial overtones that surround any modern American disaster movie. Suffice to say that at one point Cruise arrives home caked in dust like a Ground Zero survivor, at another he passes one of those boards displaying home-made posters of mssing loved ones, and his son explicitly compares the Martian invasion to a terrorist attack. As subtexts go it’s not exactly deeply buried (though to be fair the film lends itself to a rather more subversive reading equally well, suggesting Spielberg is playing it safe as usual).

This of course doesn’t stop War of the Worlds being a very solid piece of entertainment, for all the illogicalities embedded in the story (some courtesy of Wells, who can’t really be blamed, some of adaptors David Koepp and Josh Friedman, who can). Spielberg and Cruise are both on form and the film has considerable novelty value. Definitely worth a look.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published March 14th 2002

I thought it would be nice for everyone if we did a ‘golden oldie’ review that wasn’t quite as heavily mired in Cult Moviedom as usual. And so with this in mind I thought we would do two for the price of one and talk about The Hustler and The Color of Money.

Both films are based on novels by Walter Tevis and have at their heart powerhouse performances by Paul Newman, in both cases playing ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson, a gambler and pool hustler (Newman deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actor for Color of Money). The first, The Hustler, was released in 1961. Directed by Robert Rossen, it was made when Newman was still very much in the substantial shadow of Marlon Brando. At the start of the film Felson is successfully scamming his way across America with his accomplice and ‘manager’, but all this changes after he takes on the legendary player Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason, looking remarkably like a dapper Ken Clarke). In a gruelling non-stop 40-hour match Eddie seems to have Fats beaten, before choking on his lead and being taken to the cleaners.

His confidence demolished, Eddie reassesses himself and his life, entering into a fragile relationship with alcoholic ex-actress Sarah (Piper Laurie), and trying to scrape together enough money to play the Fat Man again. Then he’s approached by professional gambler Bert Gordon (George C Scott) who offers to fund and train him… and secure the rematch he so desperately wants.

This is Newman’s movie from beginning to end. While he’s occasionally caught method-acting, this is partly due to a slightly theatrical script – for the most part he lights up the screen. When he proclaims ‘I’m the best there is,’ you believe he believes it. His initial overconfidence is exhilarating rather than obnoxious and he carries the audience’s sympathy with him into despair when he loses everything, and then on to his bitter victory at the end of the film. But the rest of the main cast are very nearly as good, Gleason in a fairly small role.

But as well as being a character study of Felson, the film is also a finely-observed portrait of a whole subculture of grifters and drifters, renting rooms a night at a time, eating in bus station cafeteria, living from one score to the next. It’s also something of a paean to the old-style pool hall, with all the rituals and habits of the pro players meticulously recreated.

The pool sequences are worth a special mention: I expected the direction to hide the fact that Newman and Gleason weren’t actually playing, but a surprising amount of the match sequences were filmed in medium shot without cuts, and the actors play the game staggeringly well. Both move and cue like they know the game backwards, and the effect is hugely impressive.

Rossen’s direction (he also co-scripted) varies between the workmanlike but effective in character scenes, and a fluid, compelling, almost montage-like style for the match sequences. It’s all filmed in pristine black and white and set to a supercool jazz soundtrack, a mature, thoughtful, smart, free-poem of a movie.

The Color of Money, directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 1986, catches up with Eddie Felson twenty-five years on. The events of the first film having finished him as a serious pool player, he’s now a successful, semi-respectable liquor salesman. That’s until he encounters hot-dog young player Vincent (a startlingly young, perky and boisterous Tom Cruise) and his girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who’s dropped off the movie radar this last ten years or so). Recognising something of his younger self in Vincent, Eddie offers to take him on the road and teach him the trade, ahead of a big-money tournament in Atlantic City. But as the trio travel, Eddie finds his own love for the game and will to win slowly returning…

There seemed to be a training scheme in Hollywood in the late 80s, whereby Tom Cruise would be paired with as many great actors from the 60s as possible: he made Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Days of Thunder with Robert Duvall, and you might think this was another example. But you’d be wrong, as this is Newman’s movie every bit as much as The Hustler, and for all his steradent grin and posturing Cruise is effortlessly blasted off the screen by his twinkly, crinkly co-star. Not to say that he and Mastrantonio aren’t good, quite the opposite, but at this point Cruise was still a megastar in training, while Newman was the real deal.

That said, the script’s distinctly slanted in Newman’s favour. This is even more a portrait of Eddie than The Hustler, though once again it has insight into certain areas of America’s urban underbelly. Scorcese is a wise enough director not to impose too much of his trademark operatic style on it, though once again the match sequences are dazzlingly filmed and edited.

It all boils down to acting in the end, though, and Paul Newman’s colossal performance. When I first watched this film I thought the linking of it to The Hustler was a cheap gimmick as Newman’s character here is initially unrecognisable as the ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson of the first film. But this is the whole point, as The Color of Money is the story of how Eddie rediscovers his love of the game and his self-respect. Slowly, painfully (Forrest Whitaker has a memorable cameo as another hustler Eddie comes off second-best to), the driven, soaringly confident man from twenty-five years ago reappears. When, as the movie’s last line, Newman snarls ‘I’m back!’, you want to rise from your seat and cheer.

I think both are classics of American cinema. Personally I consider The Color of Money to be the better of the two – but it owes such a debt to Newman’s performance of 1961 that this sort of comparison is futile. Maybe in another ten years or so, Newman will play Eddie Felson as an old man and round off the story – but any such third movie will have some big, big shoes to fill.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published 18th July 2002:

(Long and slightly pompous rant about Ridley Scott and Blade Runner has been snipped.)

…speaking of directors with God-like influence and adaptations of Philip K Dick stories brings me to Steven Spielberg’s latest offering, Minority Report. It’s another big-budget high-concept SF offering in a broadly similar vein to last year’s marvellous AI. This, however, is a slightly more conventional piece of work.

It’s the year 2054. Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, chief of Washington DC’s Precrime Division. Created by Cruise’s mentor Burgess (reliable old Max von Sydow), the Precime project has harnessed the psychic powers of a trio of genetically damaged children to chart the future and eradicate homicide. Anyone now intent on murder is now arrested and imprisoned (without trial, no less) hours or days before they actually commit the crime – Cruise and his team only need to show probable causality in order to bring their target in.

(Now this is a fairly far-fetched concept for an audience to swallow, as the potential for gross miscarriages of justice inherent in this set-up is obviously immense. However, the movie sells it well, helped no doubt by the fact that the real-life US seems to have adopted a vaguely similar system in recent months.)

With the success of Precrime in Washington DC, moves are afoot to introduce it on a national scale, and Anderton is bedevilled by an obnoxious Fed (Colin Farrell) intent on finding flaws in the operation. Strange gaps in the record of predictions are coming to light and (as if all that wasn’t enough) Anderton is haunted by the disappearance of his son and has a drug habit. But all this is nothing to the shock he gets when the pre-cogs announce that he’s going to murder a total stranger in less than two days time, and is forced to go on the run from his own men…

Using my own prophetic abilities, I forsee two schools of thought developing regarding Minority Report. One will be that this is a lofty-intentioned, very clever SF thriller with added chases, fist-fights and death-defying leaps to sugar the pill for the Saturday night popcorn audience. The other will be that this is just a remake of Logan’s Run or – God help us – Judge Dredd, with bogus intellectual pretensions.

There’s certainly evidence here to support both views. On the one hand there’s a complex, thoughtful plot (even if some of the causality is suspect), serious treatment of serious themes, a rich vein of eye – and vision- related subtext and some fantastically inventive moments. But on the other, there are all those chases and gunfights, and a general feeling of having seen it all before prevails as Cruise finds his belief in the system shaken, resolves to uncover the truth, etc, etc.

And to be honest Spielberg himself seems happy to swerve back and forth between the two styles, never managing to achieve the balance struck by – for example – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, a film this in some ways resembles. Visually it’s all very striking, shot in washed-out blues and greys, with ILM providing the usual immaculate special effects… although I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t watching an advert for perfume or mobile phones. There are moments of sly, dark humour, but also ones of crass comic relief. And it seemed to me that to focus the film on Cruise’s loss and grief, rather than the moral and philosophical implications of the Precrime system, was rather a sentimental cop-out – also, the way the villain’s motivation isn’t meaningfully explored at all.

But as I say, it looks great, and Spielberg’s direction is as impeccable as ever. He’s re-employed some of the actors from TV’s Band of Brothers, who are both very good, and Samantha Morton has a lot of fun wailing and twitching and flopping about as one of the pre-cogs. The film does seems to go on forever, though.

Minority Report impressed me, but I couldn’t really warm to it. For all that it’s about emotions, it doesn’t really engage with them. It’s long, and cold, and I wouldn’t recommend taking kids to see it, but the quality of the concept, performances and direction make it a distinctly superior piece of work. That said, most people have raved about it unconditionally – so consider my qualified approval the minority review.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published October 14th 2004:

Faint echoes of both The Terminator and Speed reverberate through Michael Mann’s Collateral, which features an always-welcome appearance by one of this column’s favourite leading men. Unfortunately, Jason Statham is only in the movie for about a minute, as the director has (for reasons best known only to himself and the massed moviegoing public) decided to give the lead role in his latest thriller to some schmuck called Tom Cruise.

Collateral is a return to territory, both physical and narrative, that Mann has visited before. It’s a Los Angeles-set crime drama revolving around a masculine battle of wits. On this occasion the combatants are Max (Jamie Foxx), a cab driver who’s been on the verge of doing something with his life for the last twelve years, and Vincent (Cruise), a contract killer he is unlucky enough to pick up as a passenger. Vincent has five stops to make in the course of the night and decides to get Max to chauffeur him around between them. Originally this is done purely through financial incentives, but once Max rumbles what Vincent is up to (his first target is unhelpful enough as to fall out of an apartment block onto the roof of Max’s cab) sterner measures are in order. Will Max get through the night in one piece? Will Vincent complete his hit list? Will the LAPD (unstandably alarmed by the trail of corpses the pair leave in their wake) figure out what’s going on and get involved? One thing’s for sure: it was never like this in Carry On Cabbie.

As one would expect from the director of Manhunter and Heat, this is a tautly-directed movie with barely an inch of fat on it. It’s built around a neat central idea but for all that I suspect screenwriter Stuart Beattie had to work horribly hard to flesh it out into the credible and complex story this film tells. Only in a few places does it seem contrived or improbable (for instance, at one point Vincent decides he and Max will visit Max’s elderly mother in hospital). It’s expertly paced, mixing hard-edged action with much longer, almost laid-back sequences of the cab just cruising nocturnal LA. The city has seldom looked so beautiful on the big screen, for all the darkness of the story… The cinematography is gorgeous, digital cameras and conventional film meshing nearly flawlessly.

But while the movie looks great your attention never wanders too far from the lead characters and their slightly peculiar relationship. I must confess to being unfamiliar with Jamie Foxx before this film but he does a very fine job here as a regular person who gradually realises exactly how far over his head he’s ended up. He is, however, inevitably overshadowed by Tom Cruise, who gives his best performance in quite some time. It would, of course, make perfect sense for Vincent to put a bullet in Max’s ear the moment he realises what’s going on, and so in order for the movie not to be half an hour long and quite depressing the assassin is written as a man with a deeply skewed but still binding moral code. Not only does he keep his reluctant companion alive, he even attempts to give him personal and career advice, and seems rather offended when his help is rejected. This injects some welcome humour into what’s quite a taut and grim story, and allows Cruise a chance to shine. For once all the smarm and narcissism doesn’t get in the way of the performance, and he’s very effective indeed in portraying a man who, on the face of it, seems almost non-descript, but is underneath is deeply psychologically flawed.

To be honest, when the two leads aren’t in the taxi, and especially when they’re apart, the film has a slight tendency to drift, but not enough to spoil it. The climax is a tiny bit identikit-action-movie fodder and the final showdown inevitably seems a bit implausible. But on the whole this is a hugely impressive movie, a strong candidate for thriller of the year.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published February 7th 2002:

In an attempt to foster a true spirit of international amity (Lord Reith would surely approve), I’m proud to present our first 24LAS with simultaneous translation into Spanish. Well, not quite, obviously, but it sounds good and is sort of appropriate as this week the films under my beady bloodshot gaze are Cameron Crowe’s new Vanilla Sky and the film it’s based on, Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 Abre Los Ojos (which, in a vain attempt not to sound pretentious, I shall hereafter refer to as Open Your Eyes).

Unsurprisingly, both films tell the same story: that of a young, wealthy and handsome playboy who’s led a feckless, hedonistic life prior to the start of the movie. All this changes when he meets the gamine Sofia (Penelope Cruz in both versions), a beautiful young mime artist/dancer (depending on whether she’s subtitled or not). Our hero feels the twingings of true love for the first time – but one of his former casual conquests goes all Fatal Attraction on him and commits suicide by crashing her car with him inside it. He awakes from a coma to find his face destroyed. And, as this is all related in flashback by our hero to the prison psychologist who’s trying to determine whether or not he’s fit to stand trial for murder, it’s clear his troubles are only just beginning…

One thing I really like about European cinema is the way it isn’t restricted by genre conventions, often blending elements of several different types of fim with a deftness that often eludes the more commercially-minded American studios. And Open Your Eyes is a shining example of this – it starts like a bittersweet romance, turns into a drama, then a thriller, then a psychological horror film… before ultimately revealing itself to be something else entirely. This is a really solidly made, keenly focussed, hugely inventive piece of filmmaking. Amenabar’s direction is superb – which should come as no surprise to anyone who saw last year’s The Others – and there are sterling performances from Cruz, Eduardo Noriega as the hero, and Chete Lera as the psychologist.

Hollywood has a tradition of jealously eyeing this kind of quality foreign-language picture and then doing a remake of it – with results that are often almost unrecognisable (True Lies) or nearly unwatchable (Point of No Return) – there’s another one along soon, Just Visiting. Caution would therefore seem advisable regarding Vanilla Sky.

Well, let joy be unconfined, because in many ways Vanilla Sky is every bit as good as the film it’s based on. As a major studio production it has a sheen and polish that helps the cinematography no end, and an eclectic supporting cast (Timothy Spall, Kurt Russell, Tilda Swinton and Jason Lee) gives the film’s thesping real strength-in-depth. Up front, however, it’s pure Cameron-Cruise, as Camerons Crowe and Diaz direct and play the stalker respectively, and Tom and Penelope Cruise/Cruz play the leads.

Crowe gets a credit as screenwriter for Vanilla Sky which seems, at best, a bit impertinent as most of his time seems to have been spent copying down the subtitles of Open Your Eyes. It’s frequently scene-for-scene, even word-for-word identical, although there are a few subtle changes – Cruise’s work gets more attention, Spall’s character is wholly new, and the ending is slightly different. But his electrifying direction excuses this hubris: it’s a bravura job, grandstanding and flamboyant, every bit as effective as Amenabar’s more minimalist approach. This extends to the soundtrack, one of the most memorable of recent years- after seeing Vanilla Sky you’ll never listen to The Beach Boy’s ‘Good Vibrations‘ in the same way again.

But is it better than the original? Well… not quite. And this is largely down to Tom Cruise. Not that he gives a particularly bad performance, far from it, but… I think Cruise is a major actor whom we’ve yet to see the best of, but he still seems to carry with him an aura of palpable self-satisfaction, almost to the point of delighted narcissism. When a film engages with this quality, either by working with or playing against it, Cruise can give a terrific performance (just see his Oscar-nominated turn in Magnolia). But this doesn’t happen in Vanilla Sky, and as a result his got-it-all playboy comes across as rather smug and dislikable. Even after his accident he still seems a bit spoiled and petulant (and, possibly to stop the audience from shouting ‘Oh grow up and be grateful!’ at the screen, he also suffers from a smashed arm and incapacitating migraines – both of which are new to this version). This isn’t anywhere near enough to spoil the film, but it’s still a bit of a problem.

It doesn’t help that his love interest is Penelope Cruz. She’s definitely speaking Spanish in Open Your Eyes, but while I’m fairly sure she’s speaking English in Vanilla Sky I’m by no means certain. There are definite shades of ‘Scorchio!’ to her delivery at times. The romance takes up more screen time in Vanilla Sky (the films are notably different in their pacing) and unfortunately it occurs between a man I frequently wanted to smack and a woman who spoke English like she was attacking the language with a hatchet. But on the other hand this is largely based on my personal reaction to Tom Cruise’s screen persona, and you may disagree entirely.

I enjoyed Vanilla Sky hugely despite all the above. The best thing about it was… well, regular readers will know that there’s a certain type of film the passing of which I’ve frequently lamented, and any signs of a revival in its fortunes can bring me to happy idiot jigs. And, yes, Vanilla Sky is such a film. However, the producers have – probably quite wisely – not mentioned this at all in the film’s advertising (it would take a lot of the bite out of the ending, for one thing), and it would be discourteous of me to spoil the film for you. So let’s just say that movies like Vanilla Sky are always welcome, even if they’re remakes of foreign films that are charmingly coy about their true nature. Recommended – the first great film of 2002.

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