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Filmmaker Cameron Crowe's 2001 film Vanilla Sky is a remake of Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 film Open Your Eyes. This version of the story introduces us to a man named David Aames (Tom Cruise) who has recently inherited his late father's publishing company. When we meet David, he's wearing an odd mask and is in prison, speaking to a psychologist named Dr. Curtis McCabe (Kurt Russell). As they talk, we explore David's past through a series of flashbacks.
As the film elaborates on David's story, we learn how he left the family business to the higher-ups at the company and decided instead to live a lavish life in New York City. When his best friend, Brian Shelby (Jason Lee), introduces David to the beautiful Sofia Serrano (Penélope Cruz) at a party one night, they take an instant liking to one another and are soon heading back to her place to spend the night. Neither party realizes that David's girlfriend, Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz), has followed them. Julie waits for David to leave, offers him a ride and then crashes the car on purpose.
She dies, and his face is disfigured in the accident. The plastic surgeons do their best, but they can only do so much and he takes to wearing a mask in public to hide his disfigurement. David becomes an introvert, and when he meets Brian and Sofia for dinner, he gets drunk and it doesn't end well. Sofia finds him passed out on the street the next morning, and with her help, he starts to mend. New doctors are able to do a lot more than the first batch could, but as things quickly improve for him, things start to get strange and when he runs into Julia again and strangles her to death, he winds up in prison.
We'll leave it at that, as far as the plot synopsis goes, as it would be a crime to go into a whole lot more detail on the off chance that someone reading this piece who is interested in this disc hasn't actually seen the movie yet. Let it suffice to say that things get increasingly strange, trippy even, as the story moves along and that all is truly not as it seems for David and company.
Vanilla Sky is a really solid film, a challenging picture that probably won't work for those with a short attention span as it requires the audience to pay very close attention pretty much from the start. And it is very much a film worth paying attention to. Crowe directs the picture with a very controlled pace, letting different story elements unfold at different speeds but ensuring that there's always plenty going on to hold our attention. The film is never dull and even with a running time that goes a ways past the two hour mark, it remains pretty engaging from start to finish.
The performances are strong here, all of the principals doing very fine work. Top-billed Tom Cruise is much better than average here, handling character's increasingly strange plight quite effectively and creating, with David, an interesting character who we want to know more about. Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz are also very solid as the two very different women in David's life. Kurt Russell steals pretty much every scene that he's involved with, he's excellent here. We also get really interesting supporting work from the likes of Noah Taylor, Tilda Swinton, Michael Shannon and even an unexpected Johnny Galecki. Everyone does a great job in front of the camera.
As you'd expect from a big studio production like this, the production values are strong. The cinematography is generally very nice, there's some great camera work here, and the sound design and score both really help to enhance the weirdness, drama and tension that are all part of the film's appeal.
Vanilla Sky arrives on region A Blu-ray from Paramount Studios as part of their ‘Paramount Presents' line of remastered releases. The transfer is offered up in AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc taken from a new 4k remaster sourced from original film elements and it looks excellent. It's hard to imagine a 1080p presentation looking much nicer than it does here. Detail is very strong throughout, close up shots really popping here, and color reproduction looks perfect. The image always demonstrates strong depth and texture and while the picture remains spotless, it features the expected amount of natural film grain and shows no evidence of noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
The main audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. A German language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is also included here as are subtitles in English, English SDH and German. The lossless track is also of excellent quality, with the dialogue always crystal clear and the score and sound effects really taking full advantage of the surround channels. We get nice, tight bass that provides a nice rumble when called for but which never buries the performers. Range and depth are fantastic, and the movie sounds as good as it looks on this disc.
The only new extra on the disc is Filmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe On Vanilla Sky, which is a nine minute piece where the film's director goes over the history of how the movie came to be, the visuals, the casting process, directing his actors and staging some of the film's more memorable sequences. It's interesting enough that it's worth checking out.
There is also a wealth of archival supplemental material included here, taken from past home video releases, staring with a detailed audio commentary from Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson. This track covers a lot of ground, from the writing process to details on pre-production, working with the cast and crew, how the film was received and lots more. Crowe also provides optional commentary over the lengthy selection of deleted scenes and alternate ending sequence that is included on the disc as well, detailing why changes were made and why it wasn't used.
There are a few other bits that will look familiar to those who have owned the disc in the past, like the six minute Prelude To A Dream featurette, which is basically an intro to the film from Crowe, as well as the ten minute Hitting It Hard piece that is an interesting look at the press tour that Crowe and company engaged in when originally promoting the film. A short ninety-second Interview With Paul McCartney is included as is a five minute Gag Reel. We also get a music video for ‘Afrika Shox' by Leftfield and Afrika Bambaataa, as well as an eighteen minute Photo Gallery that comes with an introduction from photographer Neal Preston. The six minute Kurt Russell Single Take featurette, that really shows of Russell's talents, is also included on the disc along with an optional commentary from Crowe that puts it all into perspective,/p>
Finishing up the extras are a teaser trailer and international trailer for the film, menus and chapter selection options. It's also worth pointing out that this release comes packaged with a slipcover and bundled with an insert for a digital HD download version of the feature.
Vanilla Sky is a very strong film and Paramount has rolled out the red carpet for it. While it would have been nice to see a few more new extra features included here, we do get the one new featurette and a wealth of archival material. More importantly, however, the feature itself has been given a reference quality presentation, which is something that fans should certainly appreciate. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.