STARRING: Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Chete Lera, Fele Martínez, Najwa Nimri

2000, 117 Minutes, Directed by:
Alejandro Amenábar

Description: Handsome womanizer César is disfigured in a car wreck, and as he attempts to pick up the pieces of his life, bizarre situations and events seem to occur as a result of his accident.

Don't get me wrong - I would not wish a horrible car accident and subsequent facial disfigurement on anybody. However, my sympathy would perhaps be deeper were it inflicted on, say, Jean-Luc Picard or Peter Parker, etc. rather than on our protagonist César (Eduardo Noriega).

I didn't really like any of the characters in Open Your Eyes – if our actions define our character then I am glad that these guys are fictional. They are generally very aesthetically pleasing though (notably, Penélope Cruz and Najwa Nimri), and in the context of stylish camera work in some fairly stunning locations these "beautiful people" lend fresh credibility (as well as eye candy) to an interesting sci-fi flick.

 . . . and the film is true sci-fi, acting as backdrop to a simple story of self-hatred and subsequent redemption. It is to the detriment of the story's conclusion though that the redemption is fully internalized by our arrogant "hero" and is not achieved through any benevolent action towards others. This dulls the emotional resonance of an otherwise engaging conclusion. On the plus side the audience is most definitely left wondering what might happen next.

Our attention is retained throughout while it is gradually revealed to us that everything is not as it seems in César's world. During this process our leading man's emotional state becomes increasingly fraught as he subconsciously punishes himself for his previous misdemeanors; César is shown to be a selfish and rich womanizer when moving in on his best friend's girl (Cruz) during a party at his swanky bachelor pad. The big reveal of the film is well paced in its execution and the story crescendos nicely as matters go from bad to worse and strange to stranger.

However, I think this film fundamentally suffers from an identity crisis: does it want to be a sci-fi film or a straight drama? The sci-fi element is not quite substantial enough to take the lead (if this review were not on a sci-fi movie review website you might not know there was any science fiction element until somewhere past the halfway point). The more conventional story elements, though quite intense and emotional at the time, are denied much of their appeal once we find out what has actually happened to César. There is a danger that one might feel that any emotional investment in the characters during the first half of the film has not paid it's dues.

Despite the above misgivings Open Your Eyes is an enjoyable and gripping high-concept film. It is also a whole lot better than it's Tom Cruise-infested remake, Vanilla Sky.

- Geoff Clayton



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