Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

“No dream is ever just a dream.”

As Kubrick’s last film before his death, his final masterpiece, Eyes Wide Shut is different than any other Kubrick film. It’s different in a good way, though, and still holds all of the brilliant aspects of film making that we love about the director.  It’s a film less concerned with visual imagery such as in 2001 or Barry Lyndon. Instead, it is most concerned with human interactions with one another, and human emotions in general.

Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise) is thrown for a spin when his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), confesses that she was willing to have an affair with another man once. Unsure of what to think about it, he goes out on an all night escapade in which he has many strange encounters including one with a prostitute and another with a promiscuous teenager. This all leads up to an encounter that he is told about by an old friend, Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), a musician who has a gig later that night. He tells Harford that at this gig he has to play piano blindfolded and can only get in with a password. Intrigued, Harford decides to go to this party but soon discovers his presence there is putting himself and his family in danger.

What I really loved about this movie is that Kubrick is able to convey so much in a film that doesn’t really seem to say anything at all. There is no exact resolution at the end where everything comes together and you are able to understand it all. In fact, it’s ending is very ambiguous and leaves you not understanding what it is supposed to mean at all. This is probably a thing about Kubrick that turns many people off from his work. I mean, most people want to watch a movie, go through some sort of conflict, and then have that conflict totally resolved at the end. This rarely happens with Kubrick because I get the feeling that he wants his movies open for interpretation, without just one single meaning behind it.

This is probably the best I have seen Tom Cruise at. There’s so many layers to him that Cruise is able to show at different moments throughout. Confusion at his wife’s sudden reveal of disloyalty, jealousy at the thought of her with another man, intrigue as he enters the weird cult-like sex orgy, etc. He portrays all of his character very effectively. We don’t see as much of Nicole Kidman but her parts are also very good. Of course the chemistry between the two is visible on screen, as the two were married at the time of filming. These performances along with the genius camera work and chilling soundtrack make it hard for me to believe that this isn’t as big as a movie as Kubrick’s past films.

Like I said before, it’s different than Kubrick’s other films. It’s darker. As I’ve seen in The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick can of course get very dark. He loved to explore human behavior and with Eyes Wide Shut, I feel like he really went further than those other films. And in the end, he gives us no explanation for it. He shows us that life just goes on, and that’s that. He wants us to do with that information what we want.

After I watched this movie, I got the feeling that it would need a second or third viewing. It’s kind of a heavy film to take in, but there is so much to digest that you really need to rewatch it a few times to soak it all in. Before I started my Kubrick bucket list last month, I hadn’t heard of this film. I had only known that when it was released it caused some controversy due to it’s original NC-17 rating. It’s not as well known as those other Kubrick classics that people love, but I urge any lover of Kubrick to watch this one as well. As Kubrick’s last movie, it really shows that he truly mastered the art of film and this was a wonderful conclusion to an amazing collection of films that he gave to the world.

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5 thoughts on “Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

  1. Good review. Not Kubrick’s best by any stretch, but surprisingly weird, enigmatic, and sad, especially once you think about the outcome of Cruise and Kidman’s real-life marriage.

    • So true, I never actually thought about it from that perspective. Definitely makes you think. And yes, although not Kubrick’s best, still a very solid film. Thanks for reading!

    • Rereading my review and then reading your review makes me want to watch it again! I loved the stuff you pointed out in your post regarding the paradoxes displayed in the film. Like you said, it’s a very ambiguous film. It deserves a few rewatches in order to totally grasp it’s concepts.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed each of your write-ups, interesting stuff. I’m a big fan of Kubrick’s work, his gifts to the world. I must get around to watching Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut though I thought – and still think – is a terrible example of his work, sorry. It’s like he simply couldn’t be bothered, no story, no drama or intrigue and, for me, no interest after twenty minutes tops. Perhaps I’ll try again with it soon! Other reviewers believe his illness might have contributed to this sense of a hastily-completed film. Thank you for your writings, I have enjoyed them. All the best.

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