Cameron Crowe's 2001 film Vanilla Sky boasts an impressive cast, led by Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz. For good measure, Timothy Spall is cast as a British lawyer; I've recently watched Spall making a superb job of the title role in Mike Leigh's interesting, if possibly over-long film about my favourite artist, Turner: he really is a fine actor.
This film is hard to classify: some describe it as a psychological thriller, but it also veers into sci-fi territory as the plot thickens. It certainly has a touch of originality about it, and that's always welcome. Cruise plays David Aames, a fabulously wealthy young publisher, who has inherited control of a vast business empire, but is menaced by a group of seven grumpy old board members. Cruise is involved with Diaz, who is much more serious about their relationship than he is, and soon he takes a shine to his best friend's new girl (Cruz). Intercut with these sequences are later scenes which reveal that Cruise has been disfigured in an accident, and stands accused of murder. What on earth happened to turn his world upside down?
I found this premise intriguing, but although there were quite a few plot twists, (and several rather creepy moments) I became rather frustrated by the sluggish narrative pace. If Turner was arguably over-long, then I don''t think there's much doubt in this case - Vanilla Sky, it seems to me, would be much more gripping if cut by at least half an hour. Probably three-quarters of an hour. There's a portentousness about the script, it seems to me, which isn't entirely justified, much though I admire ambitious writing. Overall, I felt that the "psychology" was not as sophisticated as the film-makers seemed to believe; nor was the story as consistently thrilling as I'd hoped.
But that can happen when you dare to do something different. Perhaps the excellence of the cast gave me unreasonably high expectations. Despite my reservations, Vanilla Sky is well-made, and well worth watching, not least for a very good soundtrack featuring Nancy Wilson, Paul McCartney,the Beach Boys et al.