Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise has had a sprawling, successful career. However, Cruise is known particularly for his action movies. Be it the Mission Impossible franchise, Top Gun or The Last Samurai. But there is one movie that stands out in the crowd, the one in which he is not trying to save the world from exploding or walking away from a massive explosion himself. I am talking about the Cameron Crowe directorial Vanilla Sky (2001).
Vanilla Sky is an adaptation of Alejandro Amenábar’s 1997 Spanish movie Open Your Eyes, which featured Penelope Cruz in a pivotal role. Cruz stars in the American version as well. Since I have not seen Open Your Eyes, this is not going to be a comparison. But Crowe’s Vanilla Sky in itself is compelling enough.
The movie attempts to juggle a variety of themes – from lucid dreaming to love and delusion, Vanilla Sky is a commendable effort at creating a riveting piece of art. Of course, just like several movies, it has its share of imperfections as well. The film doesn’t follow a linear narrative, and one never really knows what is up with our protagonist. Is he dead and dreaming? Or was the entire thing just a dream? Or was it a bit of both?
Interestingly, what is Vanilla Sky’s weakness is also its strength. There are a number of open questions thrown in the movie and it is because we never know for sure that we stick to our seats to find out more.
David Aames (Tom Cruise) is your typical entitled Hollywood hero and is “friends” with Cameron Diaz’s character Julie, with whom he shares a sexual relationship with. But things go north when Julie falls for David and he doesn’t. Meanwhile, David meets Penélope Cruz’s Sofia Serrano. The characters of Cruise and Cruz spend the entire night talking with each other and falling in love.
Despite being the bizarre and the mind-boggling movie that Vanilla Sky is, it has its share of truly sweet moments. An example is when David and Sofia decide to draw a caricature of each other. While David finishes first, Sofia takes time to complete her work of art. When they finally show each other their sketches, Sofia is left speechless and for a fraction of a second, so is the viewer. While Sofia draws a remarkable and hilarious caricature of David, he sketches the most wonderful picture of Sofia, where half her face is covered by the veil of her dark hair. David is almost embarrassed at Sofia’s reaction. While she, on the other hand, is overcome by emotion. She then asks him, “I feel bad. You said to draw a caricature?” To which David responds with, “I know, I couldn’t. I saw you like that.”
Tom Cruise’s Vanilla Sky is full of such little and big surprises which is what, after all these years, makes it still immensely watchable.