This movie has a lot of surface appeal, but at its core it is as vacant as the story’s main character.
It tries to be a sort of “Sixth Sense” with sex, a trippy mind game movie about a rich, successful, handsome, but superficial man named David (Tom Cruise), whose life turns upside down when he meets a woman who stirs him (because she is “guileless”). But then he must pay the price for his casual negligence. A woman becomes jealous, and drives them both off an embankment. She is killed, and he is badly hurt and disfigured. The life he took for granted is shattered.
At this point, a fairly conventional narrative is shattered, like David’s arm and his face. It becomes impossible to say much more about it without spoiling the surprises. David tries to piece together his story and we do the same, though sometimes based on conflicting information.
Like last year’s “Cast Away,” this is something of a vanity production. I suspect that Tom Hanks created the ultimate acting exercise for himself, based on what he feared most – being separated from his family. Cruise, who also produced this movie by purchasing the rights to the original, Spanish-language version, has done the same here. He may have chosen what he fears most – losing his looks and easy grace, losing his knack for owning the room. And, like Hanks, he selected a story that provides the opportunity for tour-de-force acting. In many scenes, Cruise’s famous face is covered with a latex mask, leaving him only his body and his eyes to convey all of the character’s emotions.
Cruise works hard and makes some arresting choices. Diaz turns in a terrific performance and Tilda Swinton is excellent in a brief role as an executive. But Kurt Russell seems a little lost as a therapist, and Penelope Cruz, repeating her role from the original, says her lines as though she is not really fluent in English yet.
Parents should know that the movie has very strong language and explicit sexual situations and references. One character smothers another, and a different character kills herself and is unsuccessful at killing her lover. The facial disfigurement is graphically portrayed and may be very upsetting to some viewers.
Families who see this movie should talk about why David feels unsatisfied at the beginning of the movie, and whether he should have made a pass at the woman his best friend brought to a party. How much of the world around us do we control? How much would you like to control? If given the choice presented to David at the end of the movie, what would you choose?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Sixth Sense,” “The Matrix,” and possibly “A.I.” They might also like to see “Waking Life,” an animated film that makes many of the same points.