August 3, 2008, on DVD
Though I’m not the biggest fan, I’ve seen several Woody Allen films in my lifetime and have enjoyed quite a few of them. But lately, Allen’s films have taken on a different tone, and I have to say that I’ve been enjoying them more and more with this change. Cassandra’s Dream succeeds in making me think differently of Allen and believe that there will be more great things to see from him in the future. Much like Match Point before it, this latest Woody Allen film takes on a darker tone. And again, there is a central murder plot in the story. But in Cassandra’s Dream, it’s not the story itself, but rather the crisis that fuels the story of two brothers and the consequences of the act.
Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell play the two brothers who are asked by a family member to kill a business rival in return for financial assistance. McGregor and Farrell are perfectly matched and were cast in the less obvious roles. While McGregor plays the more level-headed of the two, he also becomes the one who is least disturbed by the murderous act they commit. Farrell, on the other hand, sinks deep into the role of a gambling addict whose conscience wins out and plunges him into a spiral of guilt and depression. As the story progresses, McGregor allows personal ambition to blind him to any kind of morality, and Farrell becomes a whimpering mess. These are not the pictures I see when I think of these two actors, and I found the contradiction refreshing and wholly unexpected. Yet again, these two men surprise me and remind me why they are so beloved in my mind.
Cassandra’s Dream is, above all, a character study. The tone is dark but the film itself stays just above the darkness. Instead, it acts as a morality play, seen through familial eyes, and it is at once engaging and shocking and bewildering. My only fault lies in the abrupt ending, which seemed almost anticlimactic, although I can’t imagine any other way to close the story. I think I just wasn’t ready to let the brothers go. And this is credit not only to the actors but to Woody Allen, as well. If he sticks to this type of drama in the future, I’ll find myself a fan before you know it.
image from Rotten Tomatoes