Vanilla Sky, which re-teams Tom Cruise with his Jerry Maguire writer-director Cameron Crowe, is an out-there erotic thriller with mind-bending secrets no review should give away. For Crowe, the auteur of Almost Famous, the script is the first he has derived from another source, Alejandro Amenbar’s 1998 Spanish film, Open Your Eyes.
It’s a bold leap that gives Cruise one of his most challenging roles. Cruise plays David Ames, a New York publisher and lady-killer. His current flame, Julie (Cameron Diaz, sensational in a small role), tells him that sex (“We did it four times . . . I swallowed your cum”) brings responsibility. David is already chasing Sofia (Penelope Cruz, re-creating her Open Your Eyes role in English with no charm lost in the translation), a dancer he hustles away from his best friend (Jason Lee).
David’s fall comes in a car accident that leaves him disfigured, accused of murder and fuzzy about details even with his shrink (Kurt Russell). Amenbar’s film was coldly exciting, a stunt. Crowe warms things up with humor, passion, an appetite for cultural touchstones that catch the essence of a life—a Vanilla Sky by Monet, a song by the Beach Boys, an early Bob Dylan album cover. He digs for the moral context that has turned David’s world into a nightmare. Crowe’s tantalizing film sticks with you.