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Woody Dostoyevsky
littlemartinarocena2 February 2008
Crime and punishment in a modern, anonymous London. Two perfectly matched, mismatched brothers. Yachts that cannot afford, dreams of Hotels in California and an everyday of losing and losing. An opportunity with a huge catch attached to it and, of course, the inexorable is waiting. Crisp, fast dialogue. Excellent performances by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrel as the brothers, an outstanding bit by Clare Higgins as the mother and the ubiquitous Tom Wilkinson as the rich uncle from America. There is something endearing about the dimness of the two brothers and we follow their predicament appalled and entertained. The ending feels a bit rushed. I longed to be part of those final instants just to catch a glimpse of that ultimate decision. A morality tale from Woody Allen, what next?
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How to commit a crime and ruin your life- story of two brothers
Petey-109 October 2008
Cassandra's Dream is the title of the sailboat two brothers Terry and Ian buy.Life looks good.But it won't for long.Terry loses a lot of money in gambling.Ian instead needs money for investing in hotels in California to impress his new actress girlfriend Angela Stark.They have a chance of getting some money from their uncle Howard-but they have to kill a man.Woody Allen meets Dostoyevsky, once again in Cassandra's Dream (2007).You commit a crime and you feel guilt over it.Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell make a great team in the lead.Colin as Terry portrays his feeling of guilt in a great way.Tom Wilkinson gives another terrific performance as Uncle Howard.Hayley Atwell is wonderful as Angela.Allen surely knows how to do it.He can come up with these great stories and characters.Let's hope in the future as well.
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One of the best films from last year
G_a_l_i_n_a31 May 2008
It seems that there has been developed a certain trend among the majority of critics and even Allen's fans regarding his work of the 1990 - 2000+ period. With every new movie he's made there are complains that Woody lost it and would never create anything as great as some of his best films of the 70s and 80s. It is a good thing that Allen does not seem to care and keeps releasing year after year the films that are still among the best the industry has to offer. I've seen every picture Allen has made, and I said in one of my reviews, "Woody Allen makes good, very good, and great movies". Even if I don't love all his movies equally, they are all good, there is something (often - a lot) to enjoy in every single one. His latest, "Cassandra's Dream" is not an exception. This is a tale of two London brothers, Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell), who are good friends and have been very close since their childhood. At one fateful moment of their lives they both would face an inevitable choice of how far they would go to get what they want and what price they would pay. I found both McGregor and Farrell terrific and they had a very believable chemistry together. Tom Wilkinson, as the successful and wealthy American uncle/Mephistopolis who seduces the nephews with a terrifying yet promising offer is wonderful as always. I happened to read a few critical reviews before I watched the film and after I finished it, I couldn't help thinking if it was the same movie we saw? Yes, once again, Allen meditates on the eternal subject of Crime and Punishment and he comes up with the superb script, confident directing, and as a result - a gripping and thrilling film that is as much a crime movie as it is about family values, loyalty, choices, doubt, guilt, and regrets. The film is beautifully shot by great Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, The Black Dahlia, Images, The Long Goodbye, and Melinda and Melinda}, and the original dramatic unsettling score is composed by Philip Glass. As you can see, there is a lot to enjoy in the Allen's movie of 2007 which I see as one of the best of the last year. I personally can't wait for the next Allen's project to be released, the new film set in Barcelona.
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A Tragedy in the Classic Tradition
brenttraft20 January 2008
"Cassandra's Dream" is the final installment of Woody Allen's London trilogy and concludes his best trio of films in over 20 years.

This is a totally uncompromising film. It's all dialog, character development, and acting. Any "action" takes place off camera and although there is bloodshed, we do not see a drop of blood on screen. This is in stark contrast to recent bloodbath type movies like "No Country for Old Men," "Sweeney Todd," and "There Will Be Blood."

Unlike "Match Point," this film is not overly derivative. The acting is good and Colin Farrell gives his best performance ever. Philip Glass's score helps convey the feeling of inevitability. However, the photography is kind of dull and fuzzy.

If you like old fashioned movies that rely of story, dialog, and acting; "Cassandra's Dream" is exactly the type of movie you thought they did not make any more.
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"The best laid plans of mice and men do often go awry."
ennyman8 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Just finished watching Woody Allen's most recent release, Cassandra's Dream, starring Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor, and others. As others have noted, there are many great facets of the film, including the superfine way Allen creates fully developed characters with minimal numbers of brush strokes. He's a master in this regard.

A follow up to Match Point, the film has the same seriousness, setting (England), ironies, and mix of characters with their different motivations and generational viewpoints. The characters are transparent to the viewer, but not to one another. In this regard, the screen writing is brilliant.

It is a story of two brothers who have character flaws. Each has dreams that require money, and each seems intent on escaping the responsibilities of the family business to pursue what are patently foolish paths. At one point the brothers reminded me of some of Elmore Leonard's criminals who are both clever and foolish. The outcome of the film was from the beginning self-evident, why could they not see it coming? Yet people do these kinds of things all the time. The music track alone tells you this is a tragedy and going to have a bad ending.

I did have a problem with the Phillip Glass soundtrack on one level. Yes, it worked well in this film, but for me it evoked The Illusionist. If someone pointed this out (and someone must have) I can picture Allen saying, "That'll work. Not that many people will have seen both films." Or something to that effect.

That may be the one weakness of the film, not the music, but the decision to not push something to another level. Mr. Allen's philosophy of film making is not to produce great art. It is to get the stories out. He is undoubtedly filled with stories, and simply doesn't waste time on time consuming details. Or so it seems.

For this reason, despite the fabulous acting and great dialogue, crisp character development and tight story, the movie might not receive its share of critical acclaim. But then, in reading his book Woody Allen on Woody Allen, he owns up to the fact that he is not striving to be Bergman or Fellini. He does not wish the comparison to be even made. He is simply a man who loved the movies, and who has lived out his dream of being able to make movies. Ultimately, he probably doesn't really care what the critics think, which is a nice place to be if you can get there.

In the end, I would have re-shot at least two or three moments in the film that should have been re-shot "get it right." Though maybe in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter. There is much to like here with its echoes of Greek tragedy and other classic moments in literature. (The scene in the bedroom felt eerily close to the problem Raskalnikov encountered in Crime & Punishment, undoubtedly intentional.) The film has sensuousness as a theme with almost none of the usual Hollywood demonstrativeness. It hints, rather than reveals.

The title for the film comes from the name of a boat which the brothers buy. The name for the boat is taken from mythical Greek tragedy. Cassandra was loved by Apollo, but ended up being cursed by him when she did not return his love. Her gift of being able to foresee the future was forever a source of pain and frustration for her. The viewer of this film, like Cassandra, knows from the first that things will turn out bad, but can do nothing to stop it.

As is often the case, "The best laid plans of mice and men do often go awry." Or to quote a maxim of my own, "We tend to get what we want, but we usually get more than we bargained for."
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A Tale of Two Brothers
mjsinclair19 November 2007
Woody Allen has a genius for creating fully fledged characters in minimum time. A few minutes into the opening scene which shows the two brothers buying a boat that they cannot afford, we already understand that theirs is a genuine, close and mutually supportive relationship – a relationship which will be severely tested later on.

Two brothers aspiring to improve their lives in very different ways: one hoping to win enough money through gambling on dogs and poker, the other through investing in restaurants and property in Los Angeles.

Two brothers who both need money for very different reasons: one to escape the clutches of loan sharks who would break his legs, the other to escape to LA with the beautiful, sophisticated woman of his dreams.

Two brothers dealing with guilt and remorse in very different ways: one suffering ever deepening mental anguish and sleepless nights, the other pragmatically shrugging off "the past" as he ambitiously plans his future.

Shot in London, with an all British cast, the standard of acting is of the highest quality. The brothers' contrasting personalities are played to perfection by Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor. Hayley Atwell (who like McGregor, also trained at the Guildhall School in London), would give Scarlett Johansson a run for her money as the sexy, sultry, siren, while Sally Hawkins shines as Farrell's homely, happy girlfriend.

With unremarkable, minimalist music from Philip Glass, matched by minimalist opening and closing credits, and editing which leaves-in scenes which should have been taken out, the film gives the impression that it was made in a hurry.

Yes, this is a film from a Woody Allen, who is not at his very best. However, at nearly 72 years of age and after writing and directing over 40 films, receiving 3 Oscars and over 77 other awards, his genius is surely entitled to a day off. This time it is the actors who carry the day.
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Cassandra's Dream
JOYofSeeing18 August 2009
Getting out of New York did Woody Allen a world of good and "Cassandra's Dream" continued a trend of suspenseful films with great dialogue and interesting character development. Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell are totally believable as brothers--and they work really well together. Colin Farrell does some of his best work to date as the brother with a gambling problem whose moral compass sends him on a downward spiral.

It's almost an identical plot to Woody Allens earlier film "Crimes & Misdemeanors," but he makes it work with a few new twists. It's rare for a filmmaker to be equally adept with comedy and drama or a meshing of the two. Woody Allen proves once again to be one of our finest filmmakers.
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The Crime Of Dreaming
dboyleukgroup6 February 2008
This is, perhaps, Woody Allen's darkest tale. No hope, no possibility of hoping. Dreaming seems so meaningless. The "I want" syndrome. Nothing will come out of it and shame on you for wanting it. Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor are wonderful in performances without frills or shine. Strangely enough, Allen shows a bit of compassion for his characters but no respect. He seems to despise them. It is merit of the two actors that we manage to stay with them without falling in love with them without even like them very much. The ending, I felt, was a bit of a cope out. Woody got to the gates of hell but didn't venture in. He leaves to us the details of all that darkness. The film, however, bears Woody Allen's name but could have been a film by Basil Dearden or J Lee Thompson and I mean that as a compliment.
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Nothing brilliant, but entertaining nonetheless
nonsequitur24718 November 2007
I saw this film yesterday, and went in with no idea what to expect. All I knew was it was a new Woody Allen movie with Collin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Wilkinson, and supposedly rather dark.

Dark it was, but not overwhelmingly so. Farrell and McGregor play London brothers who are hard-up for cash, both with love interests that they're looking to take care of. Their rich Uncle Howard (Wilkinson) agrees to help them out as usual, if they do him a favor and "get rid of" a business relation who poses a threat to his finances. Despite many doubts, their situations are pressing, and the young men agree. The story then follows the different ways they deal with the factual immorality of what they have done.

It's not exactly a cheery film, but it isn't quite an intense, ominous drama, either, like the somewhat similar brothers-in-trouble based melodrama 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' that was recently released. In 'Dream,' there's a thin layer of dark humor that adds a refreshing twist here and there.

Everything was good on the acting end, though not mind-blowing; both McGregor and especially Farrell gave strong performances. The story, though rather predictable, is still enjoyable. Nice use of London and the British countryside on Allen's part. Overall, it's a solid film that will entertain, but that's about it.
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Woody - In his best
cibyll-116 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Woody Allen's other side, where the thriller is in the middle, works fine again in his new movie. Starring Evan McGregor and Collin Farrel this unique -typical- English crime story is very interesting and well made too. Allen's style in everything what he make is here, but thats the point! He's films full with fun and good acting mixed with thriller is always something special. The story is not new but works fine all the time. The psychical part of the story makes Allen's new film one of his best I think! And of course there are the girls! Beautiful as always. The master has a very good eye for them. I hope he will and can make a lot more movies like this in the future, because without him would cinema not the same!
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Suspenseful and engaging film from Woody Allen
Gordon-1116 February 2008
This film is about two brothers having to resort to criminal means in order to get funds to pay off loans and to pursue dreams.

Continuing with Woody Allen's infatuation with Britain, "Cassandra's Dream" is set in Britain with a predominantly British cast. Ewan McGregor is a rising star with great plans for the future, while Colin Farrell is a messed up guy who drinks and gambles excessively. Both of these brothers are convincingly introduced and portrayed. Their bond with each other, their past childhood, hopes and dreams are presented, making them very believable and real as people. When they are faced with a moral dilemma, the role seems to be reversed. As a result of this well written and executed plot, I find this film engaging and suspenseful.

I particularly like the moral struggle, and the contrast between the two brothers that play against their stereotype. Colin Farrell is particularly great in this film, his portrayal of a depressed person is convincing and moving.

It is also striking that Woody Allen has very much toned down the paranoia in "Cassandra's Dream". I miss the comedic paranoia such as "Anything Else". However, "Cassandra's Dream" is still very much a Woody Allen film, with the same witty and crisp dialogs, and right to the point scenes.

I find "Cassandra's Dream" very entertaining and gripping.
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"Behind every great fortune there is a crime"
RainDogJr18 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Last Friday was finally released the most recent film of Woody Allen in Mexico City. Since Woody Allen's films have never been very successful in Mexico I doesn't missed the chance to watch it in the theater because I think, it will be out of theaters the next week.

I really enjoyed this film, about two brothers who aren't happy with their lives and are looking for more. Terry (Colin Farrell) and Ian (Ewan McGregor) are the brothers. They live in London and are trying to start a successful live, Terry with a store and Ian with hotels in California. When they have a big opportunity to get those dreams, they must take a decision that will change their lives.

Woody Allen follows the same line of his 2005 success "Match Point", showing a story about crime, decisions, dreams, luck, social classes and family, set in England. The main subject of this film is the family, showing how a regular family that lives in a very good way, can be destroyed by the greed and the desires for be someone who you can't be. This family has their own representation of what is "real success", in the uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), who is millionaire and is a kind of idol or envy for the family. The two brothers want to be like their uncle Howard and both have their own ways. And here we can see the different personalities of both brothers and how since their desires to their acts after the crime are very different from each other. I love two scenes with the same dialog and how the meaning change after the crime. "Isn't life grand?" says Terry to Ian and the girls, making a reference to what Bonnie and Clyde said. "Yeah, but look what happened to them" says Ian and everybody laughs. Later, after the crime goes as they want, is Ian who says to Terry "Isn't life grand?" but Terry looks worry, after all he knows what happened to Bonnie and Clyde. Also the irony of their boat, named "Cassandra's Dream", in which they start to dream about a better life but in which the tragedy happened.

About the cast: I like both performances. Ewan McGregor is great again after some blockbusters and Collin Farrell is surprisingly great, for me his performance is the best of the film and the best of his entire career. The support cast is just good.

Conclusion: "Cassandra's Dream" is another great film of Allen, definitely underrated but that's not a surprise since most of Allen's recent films are underrated. Anyway, I enjoyed a lot this film and left desires to re-watch "Match Point". 9 out of 10
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Crossing the Line of Morality
claudio_carvalho21 September 2008
In London, the loser brothers from a working-class family, Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell), buy a second-hand sailboat name Cassandra's Dream for their leisure. Ian poses of big shot and has big dreams, saving money to invest in two hotels in California while the unstable Terry is an alcoholic gambler addicted in pills and mechanic. When Terry loses a great amount in a card game, Ian lends his savings to pay part of the sum Terry owes to loan sharks. When their wealthy uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) arrives in London coming from China, the brothers see the chance to borrow the money they need to quit the debt with the loan sharks and to invest in the hotel. However, Howard asks them to get rid of his former associated Martin Burns (Phil Davis) that is threatening him and his businesses. Ian and Terry have to decide whether they shall cross the line and help family or face the lack the money to resolve their issues.

"Cassandra's Dream" is a tragic thriller where the plot point is the moral decision of two simple but honest brothers whether they should cross the line, commit murder and live with that later. Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor have great performances and their characters are perfectly developed; Hayley Atwell is extremely gorgeous. However, Martin Burns is not well-developed, maybe intentionally by the writer and director Woody Allen, to keep a distance from the viewer the same way Ian and Terry do in the story. The tension in the plot is limited, actually prevailing the dramatic moral fight of Terry and Ian later in this engaging movie. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Sonho de Cassandra" ("The Cassandra's Dream")
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Great acting and interesting writing
arvid-lundin28 December 2007
The writing in this film is brilliant, I think. Although you kinda know whats gonna happen next it never gets boring. It's really a very sad story for those involved, that deals with death and betrayal, but as a spectator you cant help but laugh at it. With worse actors the comical message would probably not reach the audience, but these people really does a good job. Ewan McGregor I've always trusted and he really delivers what in my eyes is his best performance up to date. Colin Farrell on the other hand isn't an actor I've believed in but he surprised me and is really convincing, and funny, especially when he turns into a nervous wreck.

Iam in the unique position of not having seen any of Woodys previous work before seeing this film. Unlike fans of Woody Allen, I can't see anything bad about this film. It's good entertainment, the best movie I've seen at the cinema this year, if anything it makes me wanna see more of Woodys films.
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"Cassandra's Dream"- story of two brothers driven by self-ambition
celine_noir0756 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I came to the movie theater not knowing what to expect... however, since it was Woody Allen i decided to give it a try.

Afterwards, when the movie was over, I started to ponder about the theme of immorality driven by self-ambition. The 2 brothers in this movie are both very ambitious characters and are both willing to make sacrifices in order to pursue their dreams. "Cassandra's Dream" might reminisce you of Shakespeare's play "Macbeth" where the protagonist is as well manipulated by his own desires. In both cases, ambition overcomes the characters' moral values and the murders they have committed hunts them throughout the story: they can neither sleep, nor trust anyone and are pushed towards isolationism. It seems the blood on their hands is stained and they will never wash it off as Macbeth dies regretting his acts and the 2 brothers in Cassandra's dream also die, completely isolated and full of compunction.

If you haven't seen a good moral film, go check this one out: all the themes of morality vs. immorality, dehumanization, the power and ambition etc... are invoked and enrich the plot; however, if you're in the "popcorn movie" mood, wait until you rent that one :D
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Not your average Woody Allen film!
dpajur3 March 2008
This is a very enjoyable film, but I'd never guess it's been directed by Woody Allen, that's for sure! It would be more suited to the likes of Coen brothers, so don't expect a comedy. Having said that, for anyone who enjoys film noir this is a film you won't want to miss.

Once you get past the fact that two "brothers" speak with totally different accents, you can start getting drawn into the film. I guess most Americans won't be able to hear the difference so who cares.

Unlike any of Allen's previous work, this film is quite dark and it will soon suck you in. Not something you'd want to watch when you're down and looking for a Woody Allen comedy to pick you up!
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TIFF07, review 5: Being rescued is one of my wicked dreams…Cassandra's Dream
jaredmobarak17 September 2007
I went into the Toronto Film Fest screening of Woody Allen's latest movie Cassandra's Dream completely void of knowing anything about it. With no other preconception besides the fact that I really enjoyed Match Point, I sat down to see what was in store this time around. Would it be a comedy or a drama? Since his last entry, Scoop, was a comic one, which I have not yet seen, I was ready to be enthralled with a mystery of dramatic proportions. What a surprise, though, when around a quarter of the way through, this one turned from serious to amusing. I need to believe that the laughs are intentional because of the way in which the performers start to ham it up for the camera. No way would Woody allow that to happen if he didn't really want it to. Upon exiting the cinema—the glorious Elgin Theatre that reminded me a lot of Buffalo's own Shea's—many audience members seemed to be buzzing about whether they were laughing at good comedy or bad, over-the-top theatrics. I never second-guessed myself that the laughs were genuine and by doing so, I found that I loved this film.

Some of you may be aware that Allen had cast and started preproduction on a film directly before beginning Cassandra's Dream. For some reason the production fell through and was ultimately scrapped. No one knows if it was somehow reworked into the movie we see now, but I would guess that it was not. My first impression, once we discover the true impetus of the movie, was that this is Match Point with comedy. The plots of both follow a very similar path and the murder and guilt accompanied with it are one and the same. In the end, the only real difference between the two, besides the superficial supporting characters that are switched around, is the way in which both conclude. Whereas Match Point stays calm and methodical, Cassandra becomes very much a comedy of errors. It will really depend on your personal taste for which you feel succeeds more. Also, if you liked the first, you should like this new spin, but, if you disliked the first, you may find yourself enjoying this one because it seems to rectify a lot of what people criticized Match Point for.

Our entry point into the tale is with two brothers played by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. The two come from a modest family, whose father is a restaurant owner attempting to get McGregor's character to take over the business for him, while Farrell works at a garage fixing cars when not betting at the neighborhood track. Allen does a wonderful thing with these characters as he casts both against type. McGregor is usually the heart on his sleeve type and sympathetic in nature while Farrell generally plays the ladies-man lothario who is not afraid of a little scrap. Both are completely flipped on their heads here with Ewan getting ample opportunity to be cool under pressure, seeing the big picture at all times and Colin showing some real nice range as the depressed and conflicted one, unable to wrestle with his conscience. Much like Terry Gilliam's Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger cast as opposites, I believe this change of pace helps build up the atmosphere needed for the laughs to work. Farrell's facial expressions are priceless and McGregor's attempts to stay afloat, while the world falls apart around him, is top-notch.

The story itself is straightforward, much like Match Point. Both brothers find themselves in trouble financially, one for gambling debts and the other for a woman (the beautiful Hayley Atwell). Only their rich uncle will be able to save them both, however, the time has finally come where his charity will need to be exchanged for something he desperately needs. It is the proposition from Uncle Howard, a wonderful acting job by Tom Wilkinson, which really sets into motion the underlying plot point that props up the rest of the film. What he asks is impossible, yet after some persuading and bouts with ego, both brothers take the plunge and find they can't deal with the pressure it causes.

Even though I found a few of Woody's metaphors a bit too heavy-handed—"what's your favorite Greek tragedy?" and the interpretations of dreams occurring left and right—I found the acting and plot progression to be spot-on. Both leads carry the film on their backs and without those performances would have left the whole thing behind to drown. While it could seem a tad lazy that Allen would pretty much rehash what he did two years ago, it is different enough to succeed on its own. Cassandra's Dream could be looked on as a very capable companion piece to Match Point, (I may even go so far as saying I liked it better), but it also shows that a little comedy can go a long way. Hopefully Woody will delve more into this mixture of theatre's two faces and show how working together can create some wonderful art as well.
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Woody Allen at his best!
dustintoddfilms20 January 2008
If you loved Match Point, you will definitely love this one! The directing and story is terrific. Ferrel and McGregor do an amazing job. Don't listen to the negative reviews from people who can't enjoy a movie unless it's filled with nothing but car chases, explosions, and gun fights. This is a real down to earth story of two brothers wanting more for themselves who get caught up in bad things and everything spirals out of control. Kept my interest all the way through! Everyone in the cast was terrific and if you're a fan of Woody then you'll definitely enjoy this movie. Set in London like Match Point and has a similar tone although very different. Woody Allen at this best!!!
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underrated; it's a compelling tale of two brothers, alike only in that they cross that line they can never return
MisterWhiplash19 January 2008
Once again, Allen, in England for the third and (possibly) final time as a filmmaker, treads into the waters of crime and agony, where 'ordinary' people commit acts of nature that leave them into a complete existential upheaval. Cassandra's Dream might not be the best of the lot that Allen has carved out- his two most notable examples being Match Point and Crimes & Misdemeanors- but it's still a damn good story, with characters to care about as they descend into the depths of their own making. To say that it isn't what the critics have been saying (which is shallow shadow of Match Point and, especially, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) is an understatement, even if it's less than a masterpiece.

Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell- who should likely bring even more less-than-senior-citizen-aged audiences to see the movie than did Match Point's cast- star as middle-class blokes who have their own financial woes, which grow exponentially for Farrell's Terry after he has gambling debts up to his ears. They get into a deal with their wealthy uncle played by Tom Wilkinson (don't we all have one, not quite like this one of course), where he'll help them start over (for McGregor's Ian a whole new start with a hot Hayley Atwell in California), but on one condition: a hit on a man who may testify on the uncle and put him in jail till the end of his days.

Then begins the downhill slope of the characters, with the whole (maybe obvious but effective) idea that "there's no going back" after getting "rid of" somebody innocent. Allen has a pretty basic premise to work with, and it does have the one similarity of two-brothers-in-trouble-and-do-a-crime, but that's as far as it goes really. While, to be sure, Allen is no Sidney Lumet in getting the harshest dramatic vibe possible out of his genre piece, he still garners some affecting stuff here, though in a different form with the crime-and-punishment angle, which is more then like a redux of M.P.

What makes it work a lot better than just an average genre piece, with quintessential Philip Glass music in tow(an unusual, good bit for Allen who always uses old jazz and classical), is the dynamic of the brothers, and how they each want to get out of where they're at in life. They can't stand being in their solid middle class roots, Ian at his father's restaurant and Terry as an auto mechanic, and want more for themselves and for their respective love interests. But there's also a personality split: Ian is more shifty, out for himself, a much truer criminal mind who justifies everything he does, chiefly the homicide, as doing better for himself (and, as well, using that against Terry later on with him and Uncle going down with him), while Terry has complete guilt, if not fortitude in his conscience, for what he will do and later does.

It helps that McGregor and Farrell are very good in their roles, particularly Farrell who's had less than stellar days as an actor lately, as they just dig deep into the problem they face, or try not to face as case might be. Wilkinson, for the few scenes he appears, is as usual brilliant. And Allen actually pumps up the suspense and tragedy with some slices of dark comedy (like an accidental meeting of Mr. Burns, the intended hit, and the brothers at a bar), which gives some further life to his material. At the end of the day, Cassandra's Dream doesn't hit it out of the park, but it's a lot better than you might have heard; the story of a crime tearing up two distinct personalities.
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Colin Farrell is the highlight of the film.
doug-69712 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw Woody Allen's latest movie at the Toronto Film Festival. Any who watch this expecting a flat-out comedy are likely to be disappointed. The movie is far more dramatic than comedic. Essentially, the movie is about two brothers who decide to commit a murder, one to get himself out of debt, the other to help his brother and also for his own monetary profit. Woody involves us in their thoughts in deciding to do it, during the murder and afterwards. I found it psychologically believable and found myself very involved with the story. If anything is weak it's the ending. It's simply too abrupt and unemotional. Woody has made us care about these two brothers and then ends it suddenly with no sense of grief (except for a brief shot of one of the brother's fiancé). Colin Farrell in incredible and is the highlight of the movie. Whatever real humour comes from his character. You feel for his moral struggle which is of comedic proportions. He delivers the best line in the movie when the two brothers are hiding in a car waiting to kill their intended victim as he visits his mother. When they finally see him walking to the house Colin's character says to his brother (Ewan McGregor) as he starts to get out of the car to shoot him "Let him visit his mother one last time."

I should add, I saw this movie the second night it played and not at the premier. The audience I was with was reacting to this movie as if it was a black-comedy. However they were also laughing at anything that moved. But if they were right and I'm wrong and this was intended as a comedy I'm not sure it's very successful. I have to think that if Woody meant to make a black comedy it would have been far funnier.

As a drama with comedy elements I would heartily recommend it.
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The Dream fades
majikstl29 January 2008
An intriguing thing about Woody Allen's CASSANDRA'S DREAM is the presence of actor Phil Davis. The movie deals with a plot to kill Martin Burns, the character played by Davis. The character isn't particularly interesting and the reasons for wanting him dead remain mostly unclear, but, as Burns -- if you don't look too closely and from a distance -- Davis bears a vague resemblance to Woody: same thinning gray hair, prominent eyeglasses, gaunt face, skinny physique and taste in casual sport coats. The character gets precious little screen time and Davis gets very little opportunity to give Burns anything suggesting a personality, so the similarities are purely superficial -- but then, the resemblance CASSANDRA'S DREAM has to a Woody Allen movie is also vague and superficial.

It is, admittedly, unfair to criticize a filmmaker for not making a movie that fits neatly into a previously constructed mold, to try to do something different. And Woody has two established styles -- absurdist comedy and dark, oh-so serious melodrama. In his prolific career he has managed to run the gamut between the extremes, occasionally mixing tones, yet still creating films that have a distinctly "Woody Allen" quality. But, as was the case with the equally banal (and vastly overrated) MATCH POINT, the problem with CASSANDRA'S DREAM is that it is not only devoid of Woody's style, but of any style. As always, the film is technically proficient and slickly done, but there is a coldness, a lack of purpose behind CASSANDRA. Like many of his films, it is essentially a dramatized short story, but it lacks either his rambling, cynical sense of humor or a pointed moral that makes its serious tone have a bite. Even his tired trademark rant about the futility of life due to the absence of a benevolent god is given only slight attention.

The story is relatively simple: In London, two close, working-class brothers find themselves strapped for cash and seek to borrow money from their wealthy uncle. Uncle Howard is more than willing to oblige, but there is a catch; the boys have to earn the money by killing one of Uncle's business associates, the aforementioned Mr. Burns. From there, the story could go in two directions: a comedy of errors as the two hapless amateurs try to commit the crime or a suspenseful drama as the two get drawn deeper and deeper into a dark world that neither wants nor is prepared for. Allen takes the story in the latter direction, though unfortunately, as he has shown previously, he has no skill for creating suspense or directing scenes of violence.

CASSANDRA'S DREAM isn't a bad movie, but rather an inadequate one -- or more accurately, an incomplete one. The performances are just fine, with Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as the brothers, Ian and Terry, doing their best to flesh out thinly drawn characters. Indeed, the actors could easily carry the material were it not for the weakness of Allen's poorly contrived narrative. Even accepting as a given that Ian and Terry are amateurs, their plan to kill Burns is embarrassingly simple-minded and illogical: If Uncle Howard is the one most likely to want Burns dead, wouldn't his poor nephews' sudden display of unaccountable wealth seem suspiciously convenient? The story needs to be fleshed out with believable complications and should build to an ironic twist that delivers a bang and not a mere whimper.

The screenplay that Allen offers is not without its merits. The two men played by McGregor and Farrell, are basically decent blokes, but their need for money and the way Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) manipulates them to go bad in the name of family loyalty pushes them to rationalize their behavior. Further, Ian is ambitious and Terry is a gambler, and Allen subtly defines Uncle Howard as an ambitious gambler in his own right. But, the story also shows that Ian and Terry have parallels to Burns as well, similarities the script would have done better to explore with much greater interest. As is, the battle between good and evil as Allen lays it out is exceedingly lame; the "we-can't-do-this / we-have-to-do-this" dialogue is not backed up -- or hyped up -- with any dramatic tension. When the boys actually meet Burns and they (and we) find him to be a nice, friendly man who seems undeserving of his fate, the dramatic tension should be kicked up a notch. We are barely allowed to care for Terry and Ian to the point where we don't want them to commit the crime, but we should certainly care as well whether their innocent victim dies. As in MATCH POINT and CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (and to some degree even MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY), Allen can't seem to muster up much interest, let alone sympathy, for the victims of the crimes he concocts. A recurring theme in so many of his films is characters who rant and rave about how unjust and cruel our supposedly godless world is, yet when Woody creates little worlds for his movies, the god he plays isn't any more compassionate or caring. What's missing -- and I know it is a tired complaint -- is Woody's sharp wit that not only blesses his best characters with the quirks and charm that make them humorous, but humane as well. When Woody defines his characters through wit, they come alive; when he defines them by their bitterness and discontent, they remain stagnant and uninteresting, and worse, largely one-dimensional. All of Woody's laborious moralizing dialogue never has as much power as one of his well constructed pieces of casual sarcasm.
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A most un-Woody-like Woody film
billyfish6 December 2009
When I saw the names of Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, and Tom Wilkinson, I was excited about watching this film. Then I saw that Woody Allen had directed, and my expectations went down. I half-expected another whiny, self-absorbed mid-life crisis treatment, but I was very pleasantly surprised. If I hadn't seen his name, I would never have guessed Allen directed this movie.

McGregor and Farrell start out as two happy-go-lucky brothers living in London, but soon one gets deep into gambling debt and they both turn in desperation to their rich uncle. His solution is to ask his nephews to do something horrible for him in return for the bailout. Meanwhile both young men are attempting to have normal relationships with their significant others. The actual crime itself, and the very different effects it has on each brother, occupy the rest of the film. It's a dark film, nowhere near as glib as most Allen films, and the character development of the two brothers is excellent. Both McGregor and Farrell turn in excellent performances. It's nice to see Woody Allen step outside his traditional boundaries and come up with such an engaging film.
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Black-Sailed Ships & Crossing Moral Lines
EThompsonUMD11 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Cassandra's Dream" [2007] explores a favorite Woody Allen conundrum: whether there really exists a moral line that when crossed causes the transgressor to suffer intolerable pangs of guilt - and, if so, whether those pangs originate from a watchful Judeo-Christian God, the fateful Furies of classic tragedy, or simply the chance structure of an individual psyche.

The film presents us with two such transgressors, the brothers Ian and Terry Blaine (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell), who for various reasons agree to commit a murder of convenience against a man they know only as a threat to their rich Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), whose goodwill and largess they covet. One brother - good looking, smooth talking Ian - seems quite capable of rationalizing the crime and reaping its benefits, which for him include the funding of his latest get-rich-quick scheme and the successful wooing of a beautiful aspiring actress (Hayley Atwell) he must social climb to attain. But the other brother – underachieving, goodhearted Terry – motivated by huge gambling debts, a girl friend with domestic inclinations, and a weak mind made even weaker by a growing addiction to alcohol and painkillers, begins to unravel almost as soon as the murder is committed.

As Terry's guilt-ridden torment begins to threaten both Ian and Uncle Howard with exposure, Uncle Howard – the ultimate amoral sleaze ball – proposes that Ian knock off his brother too. Thus the stakes in the crossing-the-line plot are raised to the ultimate Biblical crime: fratricide. Can Ian, having gone a long way down the slippery slope to utter nihilism, complete the job? That is the last moral question Allen raises in "Cassandra's Dream," and I'll leave it to his small cadre of faithful viewers to find out the answer for themselves.

I will, however, divulge the verbal playfulness in the film's title. On a literal level, "Cassandra's Dream" is the name the brothers give a sailboat they purchase in the film's opening sequence. It is named in honor of a 60-1 shot that came through for Terry during his initial lucky streak at the dog races. Symbolically – and, some might say, heavy-handedly – the sailboat Cassandra's Dream evokes the world of Greek tragedy and specifically Homer's Cassandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy, who is blessed/cursed by Apollo with the gift of prophecy that no one heeds. Cassandra foresees the tragic doom of Troy but it powerless to stop it.

Allen's film has a similar sense of inexorable doom, and the sailboat that symbolizes tragic vision also frames the film's action physically in its opening, central turning point, and climactic scenes. Since the boat was acquired by seeming "luck," yet, like Oedipus' crown, is really a harbinger of unforeseen but quickly arriving tragic fate, it neatly encapsulates the film's central theme as well. On top of this is a broader play on the metaphorical use of ships to express luck, good or ill. Ian ironically assumes that his "ship has finally come in," but as his father (like a one-man Greek chorus) reminds him: "The only ship certain to come in has black sails."

Like most of Allen's films in the past decade, "Cassandra's Dream" reworks territory familiar to those who have followed his career since the beginning. Many of the same moral issues were raised and explored in one of Allen's greatest films, "Crimes and Misdemeanors," whose title in turn revealed the literary sources of the theme: Dostoyevski's "Crime and Punishment." Allusions to Greek myth and tragedy were extensively laced – albeit comically – throughout "Mighty Aphrodite" and in the opening of Allen's preceding film, "Scoop." "Cassandra's Dream" is not as good as any of these or perhaps not even as good as the last example of "serious Woody," "Match Point," but it's not a bad film. Its plot has a stark, stage-like melodramatic quality that is compelling even if entirely humorless and mostly predictable. The pairing of two fine young actors like Farrell and McGregor creates a fascinating chemistry and the rest of the cast, particularly Wilkinson and the gorgeous Atwell, has its moments. Vilmos Zsigmund's cinematography, highlighting London and the English countryside, is stunning, and Philip Glass's score adds a powerful emotional dimension as well.

I've gone back and forth on my feelings about this latest effort from Allen, but I've finally veered toward a qualified thumbs up. For devotees of "funny Woody," I'd suggest a pass, but his die hard fans – of whom I am certainly one – will find much of interest in "Cassandra's Dream."
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A Masterful Exercise
jzappa30 July 2008
When I saw this film at the theater with my friend, I was disturbed by the laughter I heard constantly around me as response to several things in the movie. Whenever Tom Wilkinson coerces Ewan McGregor and/or Colin Farrell to commit murder or something equally heinous, people began to cackle as if Woody Allen meant it as black humor. When the lights came up, I found that the theater was full of middle-aged social circles. The very affected man behind me said to his wife, "That was a funny movie." No, sir, it wasn't. Do not let insecure pseudointellectuals influence your perception of Cassandra's Dream. It is perhaps the darkest of Woody's forays into drama. It even references Greek tragedy in dialogue as its narrative structure concurs with it.

McGregor, Farrell, and Wilkinson turn in absolutely astounding performances, among the best of their careers thus far. Farrell drains himself emotionally and Wilkinson plays possibly the most twisted and disturbed character Woody's ever created, a sort of role for which Wilkinson is highly capable. McGregor, while not quite as strong as the other two, is a formidable lead amongst them, the one of two brothers whose sense of self is capable of hiding behind itself more comfortably than Farrell.

Cassandra's Dream is, as some of Woody's earlier dramatic efforts have been, an exercise. He's flexing his wings but the story is not personal as ironically are nearly every comedy he's done and even Match Point. It is a plot, classically ordered with one central character's wants and needs, augmenting or diminishing depending on the prearranged moral message. This is not a problem at all with the movie except that it makes it more detached than his best films. The ending portrays the forensic efficiency of London police as capable of discovering deaths before there being any way of reporting them, as well as determining things only determinable by lab tests, however the film is still just as enthralling, well-made and intelligent as every one of his movies, from the best to the least.

One of the highlights of the film is Philip Glass's musical score, which is almost reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood, only much more pulsating and much less dissonant.
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jlmcdbosma30 January 2008
I agree that this is a similar story Line but not a rip off of Before the devil Knows your Dead which was also very good.

The story seemed to initial drag in the beginning however at the end you see why. It is the building and creating of characters you care about that makes an ending (although slightly obvious) were you care about what happened

the performances of both Colin and Ian were great I hope this a sign that Colin is going to worry more about his career than giving the paparazzi idiots something to do.

As usual Woody captures the atmosphere and tension in the camera work and the dialogue. The settings are beautiful and when Colin enters the world of the Hoy poly at the garden party you can cringe at his ineptitude and his feeling of _______.(that would give it away)

Go see and Enjoy if you like a good story well told and well acted this is your film. A great follow up to Match Point but leave Scoop out.
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