Monday, July 4, 2011

Woody Allen Gets Serious in "Cassandra's Dream"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 57 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux


Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPAA - PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexual material and brief violence
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
PRODUCERS: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Gareth Wiley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vilmos Zsigmond
EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter
COMPOSER: Philip Glass

DRAMA/CRIME

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Tom Wilkinson, Sally Hawkins, Hayley Atwell, John Benfield, Clare Higgins, Ashley Madekwe, and Phil Davis

Cassandra’s Dream is a 2007 film from writer/director Woody Allen that got its U.S. release in 2008. An American/British/French co-production, this drama tells the story of two British brothers who commit a shocking crime that changes both their lives – one for the better and the other for the worse.

The Blaine brothers, Terry (Colin Farrell) and Ian (Ewan McGregor), have serious financial woes – Terry from gambling and Ian from trying to invest in highly speculative and risky business ventures. When their uncle, Howard (Tom Wilkinson), proposes that the brothers commit a crime for him in exchange for the money they need to make their problems go away, they agree. However, one brother moves on from the crime as if nothing happened, while the other feels the heavy weight of guilt upon his shoulders.

Cassandra’s Dream could be seen as something akin to a Greek tragedy. The film’s simple premise deals with complex characters and the complications that arise from their life-changing decisions and sometimes rash actions. Cassandra’s Dream engaged me, and I found myself thinking about what I might do if I were in the Blaine brothers’ position. Viewers could spend the entire movie thinking about which brother’s side they would take. I found myself sympathetic with Ewan McGregor’s Ian.

Speaking of which, McGregor and Colin Farrell give good performances, with Farrell showing a sensitivity and vulnerability we don’t often see in the characters he plays. However, the focus is on Ian, as the lead character, and his point of view is the window through which the audience sees the story. McGregor, as always, proves to be a capable leading man, who has the ability to convey the internal conflicts that direct a character’s actions and the way he lives.

I’ve been watching Woody Allen’s film for three decades. I’ve noticed that his best work features characters making momentous, even life and death decisions that not only impact their own lives, but also change the lives of other characters – often for the worst. Cassandra’s Dream reveals that Allen has only scratched the surface of his talent for telling crime stories.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, July 02, 2011


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