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Movie Review: Cassandra’s Dream

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Cassandra's Dream is Woody Allen's third movie in a row set in London, after Match Point and Scoop.  It was released in Europe last year and into limited release this January in the U.S. Now Allen fans that missed the movie have a chance to see it with the DVD release.

The story focuses on two brothers. Colin Farrell plays Terry, an auto mechanic with a drinking and gambling problem. Ewan McGregor plays Ian; he works at his father's restaurant but dreams of being a big shot. Things are not going well for the entire family. Their father's restaurant is going bankrupt. Terry gets into a big gambling debt to loan sharks that he cannot pay back. Ian meets a local actress and falls in love. The problem is he makes her believe that he is rich and has Hollywood connections. He has an opportunity to invest in some California hotels that might make him rich, but does not have the large amount of capital needed. The brothers need a lot of money to help them out of their predicament.

Tom Wilkinson plays Uncle Howard. He is a rich, globetrotting doctor. The family has relied on him in the past with their financial burdens. Uncle Howard's come to town and the boys tell him their worries. He agrees to help them if they do something for him in return. He wants them to murder someone. A man named Martin Burns (Philip Davis) has evidence on Howard. Burns is going testify, which will likely put Howard in jail. Howard sees no way out of the situation, except for Burns' murder. At first, the boys are taken aback, but they see no other way out for themselves either.

The boys come up with their murder plan and try to implement it. Terry is much more mentally troubled by their sinful act than Ian is. He worries about God's punishment and that what they are doing is wrong. Ian does not seem worried about the moral quandaries. He is much more concerned about completing the job, putting it behind him, and enjoying the spoils. Their difference in morals adds to the brother's tension.

Woody is in top directing form again. The movie is presented in shots that are unmistakably Woody Allen. They tell the story visually by concentrating on details most directors would ignore or underplay.  Throughout the movie you feel the brothers' sense of dread and anticipation.

The actors all give fine performances. McGregor plays a man playing a big shot convincingly. When the façade breaks, it does not seem phony. Colin Farrell's Terry slowly unwinds more and more throughout the film. At the beginning of the movie, he overplays his drunkenness a bit, but by the end you completely buy his character.

The avant-garde composer Philip Glass provides the soundtrack. The skewed classical almost sounds like breaking glass. It perfectly suits the movie.

The movie is a tragedy in a similar vein to Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point. Like in those movies, different perspectives on God and moral decisions are explored. Because of the scope of the brothers' decision, those discussions do not seem out of place.  An interesting theme of this movie is the idea of treasure on Earth versus punishment in the afterlife. Ian is only worried about his earthly pleasure, while Terry is consumed with worry of divine judgment.  Because of the final outcome and Farrell's character, this movie is more morally conscious than the other two.

While this may not be an Allen classic in the league of Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors, it is a very good movie. Allen fans will definitely want to check it out, as will fans of McGregor and Farrell.

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About Mark Kalriess