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Optical Illusion 

*Vanilla Sky (R)
Paramount Pictures

Director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) delivers a faithful, ambitious remake of Alejandro Amenabar's Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), the story of an emotional drifter whose life begins to unravel when true love comes his way and he's forced to face his past indiscretions.

Tom Cruise applies his standard, tense acting method as playboy David Aames. Penlope Cruz reprises the role of Sofia, David's pure-hearted love interest, providing just the right amount of humanity and humor. And Cameron Diaz handily tackles the complex role of Julie, David's casual lover turned stalker.

Crowe's visuals offer unusual depth and texture, practically inviting the viewer to come back for a second look. And the soundtrack, ranging from the Beach Boys to tense techno to world dance music, sets the pace of the film as well as stamping it with Crowe's signature. Several scenes could have been edited to speed up the thriller trajectory -- the film is too long by about a half hour.

Viewers not familiar with Open Your Eyes should be warned to expect a wild, science fiction--based departure as the plot unravels, but it would be a crime to reveal more. Vanilla Sky skates on the edge of physical reality, exploring the tenuous territory of emotional fallibility, and it's one wild ride.

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