"Cassandra's Dream" DVD Review
May 27, 2008 by Zach Demeter
If you havenít heard of Cassandraís Dream then youíre probably like me and live in the United States. The film received little publicity over here and limped away from U.S. cinemas with less than a million dollars. Overseas the film raked in over nineteen million and while not a huge ďhitĒ, performed admirably well, with a fifty-fifty split of critics who both liked and disliked the film. With stars Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell headlining the picture, itís a wonder it didnít fare better domestically for their star power alone. I guess the moviegoer has become more selective with their choices, especially when it costs ten dollars on average to see a film now.
Cassandraís Dream, the latest film from writer/director legend Woody Allen, falls under the crime / drama banner the best and follows two brothers, Ian (McGregor) and Terry (Farrell) and their continuing struggle for money. When the two find themselves in a bind, Terry with a massive gambling debt and Ian with a new girlfriend and business propositions in California, they turn to their rich Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) for help. Howard agrees to help the two men under one condition: they ďget rid ofĒ a snoopy old business partner who is going to testify against him.
From the outset, Cassandraís Dream looks like itís going to be an impressive film. Great locations, superb actors and Woody Allen behind the camera, the film starts out promisingly enough but by the time the credits role, youíre left with a completely unsatisfied feeling and youíre left simultaneously liking and hating what you just saw. Itís not necessarily one element of the film that causes this reaction, but rather a handful that all add up to throw the film off balance at times.
The films biggest flaw is the execution of the story. Itís a great concept, what with the two brothers facing off against their moral centers and deciding whether killing another man is right in order to get what they need out of life, but the way the film goes about it seems completely awkward. We see the brothers switch roles too many times and by the end of it you see the ending coming from a mile away. Iíve become quite apt at predicting film endings lately, but itís a bit disappointing to be proven right on multiple occasions.
Another element of the film that I found distracting was the dialogue. It was smartly written but when it spilled out of the mouths of the actors in that specific accent something seemed entirely off about it. I canít pinpoint the reason but I just canít believe specific phrases and word structures coming out with these accents. Basically it sounds like American dialogue and phrases coming out of an Englishmanís mouth. Itís certainly unique, but ďuniqueĒ isnít always a positive thing when it comes to playing around with accents, as they can often make or break a film if they arenít believable.
Other small elements like Ian constantly driving around the expensive cars that are taken to the shop where his brother works and the owners never noticing the extra mileage (one does finally notice a few dents on a car); another thing is Ianís seen driving the same fancy Jaguar twice in the film and I just canít imagine if I was the owner of that car that Iíd be taking it back to the same mechanic so soon after getting it repaired the first time. Perhaps theyíre the only place around London that services classic Jagís, but trying to swallow even some of these little elements can become a bit tedious at times.
Those are just small elements of the film that can become tedious and nagging, but even if you ignore those points the film still fails to really be completely believable. The moral struggle of the brothers before they perform the kill is almost too short and it seems laughable to me that they would frequently meet up with the man theyíre going to murder before they actually execute the job. Surely London isnít that small that youíd frequently run into the one man out of millions.
In a way I really enjoyed the film but I think that had more to do with McGregor and Farrell than the script or secondary characters. The girlfriends of the brothers as well as the rest of the family are forgettable and itís only the scenes with the leads and Wilkinson that really stand out to me. The ending is almost humorous in how fast it ends, but the film still manages to get a few decent questions in about the morality of doing anything for family and for what you need. Itís not philosophical by any means (after all, how deep does a discussion have to go when asking ďIs killing wrong?Ē) but itís still a decent film thatís at least worth a Rental. Itís a shame it couldnít have fired on all cylinders as this would have been a really great film with a classic thriller plotÖthereís just too many small nicks in the films script that when itís all put together it easily crumbles under even the lightest of scrutiny.
Cassandraís Dream arrives on DVD with a cover that is oddly reminiscent of the Eastern Promises cover art. Not sure whatís going on with that, but there doesnít appear to be much effort put into this DVD release anyway, as there isnít a single extra to be had. The menu system is of the usual variety and is simply to navigate (what there is to navigate, anyway) and the standard single-disc amaray case is plain without any kind of slipcover or inserts.
Video and audio for this release is as strong as youíve come to expect from Genius Productions, although there are a few scenes with a bit of detail loss but itís no big deal. Video is clean and clear of artifacts and really holds the muted colors of the film together, while the Dolby Surround 5.1 track occasionally envelopes the room and rarely, if ever, thumping out something from the sub. I think the Jaguar got a few engine rumbles in, but the ďgunĒ in the film sounded more like a pop rocket than anything, so there wasnít much to shake the room. A very subdued crime drama in terms of sound mix.
AndÖthatís it. There are some trailers before the feature but there are absolutely no extras. Disappointing as I wouldíve liked to hear the cast and crewís thoughts on the film, but considering its poor reception I guess itís obvious why they didnít want to talk about it.
Since all youíre going to be checking out on this release is the film, it mirrors the Rental recommendation as the film itself. Not much to see here so hold off purchasing unless youíre a big Woody Allen fan.
Cassandra's Dream is now available on DVD.