For our author Michael Gasch, “Vanilla Sky” is one of the best films that move between reality and fiction. The film Pearl is currently available as a Paramount+ subscription. A must-see for all science fiction and Tom Cruise fans.
Even if Tom Cruise has been celebrated in the recent past, especially for the “Mission Impossible” series and most recently “Top Gun: Maverick”, a film pearl that is already over 20 years old should not be forgotten. We’re talking about the science fiction drama “Vanilla Sky”, in which Tom Cruise can no longer distinguish between reality and dreams and almost perishes as a result.
On Paramount+ you can stream the sci-fi highlight “Vanilla Sky”, which is the (better!) remake of a Spanish film, with a subscription at no additional cost. You can currently test the streaming service for seven days free of charge.
That’s what “Vanilla Sky” is about
David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a multi-million dollar heir, successful businessman, and typical playboy. He always likes to say: I’m living the dream! One day he falls all the more deeply: he suffers an accident, loses his girlfriend Julie (Cameron Diaz), and his face is severely disfigured.
He finds solace in the mysterious Sofia (Penélope Cruz), with whom he grows ever closer. As David struggles to regain control of his life, his memories become more and more distorted and his world begins to fall apart. One day he no longer knows what is reality and what is fiction.
Confusing science fiction cinema
As the saying goes: Dreams are foam. Not so in “Vanilla Sky”, in which the difficult separability between reality and dreams is taken up specially. For me, the drama works even better than the most comparable “Inception”, even if both films share the basic idea: is the protagonist in reality or a dream? The American remake even wins the comparison with the Spanish original “Virtual Nightmare – Open Your Eyes” – especially the dreamlike as well as nightmarish film sequences are even better here!
Whether Tom Cruise finds himself in a surreal and epic scene in a completely deserted Times Square or other moments, walking the tightrope between what is reality and what is imagination takes a bold approach that differs from other films: similar productions often only subtly record whether a protagonist is in a dream or not, it’s completely different here. In most cases, it’s easy to tell whether Cruise’s character is in real life or not because of the visuals. The paradox is that this clarity is not so much a weakness as a strength.
One could assume that exactly this clarity destroys the film, in reality, the opposite is the case. “Vanilla Sky” doesn’t care that you see through the premise of the film relatively quickly. Rather, the focus is on the story of suffering that the protagonist has to go through. So the question asked at the beginning of reality or dream gives way. A much more interesting one emerges: do you even want to live in a dream?
The film Pearl is rightly at the top of our list of the most legendary mindfuck films. Overall, the drama has even more to offer: emotionality, melancholy, and a fantastic atmosphere that exudes great 90s vibes due to the soundtrack, which includes Radiohead, REM, and The Chemical Brothers, among others.
Tom Cruise at his best
All topped off with one of Tom Cruise’s finest performances. While he’s usually the tough guy, his emotional and sensitive acting comes to the fore here and that’s something to be proud of. The drama is also reminiscent of another cruise masterpiece, in which he can show all his acting skills, beyond his action roles: “Magnolia”.
All in all, “Vanilla Sky” may be many things: a story of an offer of a desperate man, science fiction about the subconscious and a portrait of how lost one can feel in the world. Because of this complexity, the film is even the much better version of “Inception” for me.