May 29, 2008
Cassandra’s Dream (2007) continues Woody Allen’s current string of European-based films. Whether for financial reasons or wanting a change of pace, the New York-based filmmaker left his favourite city in favour of London with Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006), and this new one, an intricately-plotted crime thriller.
Two working class brothers, Ian (McGregor) and Terry (Farrell), fulfill a childhood dream of owning a sailing boat. Ian helps his father out with his restaurant business but is trying to get involved in property investment. Terry is a mechanic who loves to gamble – dog racing and playing cards. He wants to buy a house with his girlfriend Kate (Hawkins) but doesn’t have the money so he goes in on a big stakes card game and wins 30,000 pounds. Meanwhile, Ian meets Angela (Atwell), an actress, stranded on the side of the road with car trouble and helps her out. They become romantically involved but he passes himself off as a classy bigshot.
Trouble arises when Terry owes a loan shark 90,000 pounds. Ian doesn’t have much money as he has his own financial struggles. They decide to ask their Uncle Howard (Wilkinson) for help. He’s wealthy and provides assistance to their parents. In return, Howard asks them for a favour. He’s about to have his business investigated and a man could give evidence that would ruin him. He wants Ian and Terry to kill this man. The brothers are understandably shocked that their uncle would ask this of them and he plays on their notion of family loyalty.
Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell are convincing as brothers who get in way over their heads. They both do an excellent job wrestling with the moral dilemma of killing a man. If they do it, then they can realize their dreams but can they live with the consequences? There are no easy answers in Allen’s film and it explores the effect that the brothers’ decision has on them and those around them. Terry takes it really hard, his conscience wracked with guilt while Ian seems to accept it all a little too coolly. The main draw of the film is watching the interplay between Farrell and McGregor. It is wonderful to see them taking a break from impersonal, big budget films for a more intimate, plot-driven thriller. They play well off each other and get us invested in their situation so that we want to see how it all plays out.
Cassandra’s Dream is also a nice change of pace for Woody Allen as he returns to the moral complexity of a Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). This new film explores the age old dilemma of how far are you willing to realize your dreams? Are you willing to compromise your own personal values in the process? Allen doesn’t judge his characters – he leaves that up to the audience.