Mortality as Home Entertainment in Vanilla Sky (2001)
In the last ten minutes of Vanilla Sky (2001), there’s no less than ten or fifteen metaphors, images, and hidden meanings wrapped in sappy lines of dialogue, all to give us the message that life is worth living. I like this movie a lot, and I’ve always liked it, mostly because it tries for something deeper, when it could have just been a love triangle movie or something like that. It has a lot of things that don’t make sense, plus there are plenty of plot holes, but Vanilla Sky makes up for that with a concrete message. It takes a stand, yelling at us about its themes.
I’d like to talk about the last ten minutes of the film, which is where the real discussion takes place. There are other places in the movie with more beautiful visuals and less in-your-face dialogue, but the ending is where the movie tries to deliver on the confusion it was throwing all over the place for the entire runtime. Sometimes, I wonder about these movies who try to be deep and meaningful, because a lot of them are confusing and they think it’s okay. It’s okay, because there’s is an exposition dump, and it’s an excuse to be all over the place.
Before the exposition, Tom Cruise as David takes a crazy trip. The movie is about David accepting himself, and that’s about all it comes down to. He has this lost dream girl, a best friend, and a struggle with in the business world, but it is his pain and personal anguish which leads him into delusion-land where he lives out his dreams, literally.
After David pulls back the curtain, he discovers his personal pain. He went into hiding to escape a physical pain caused by an accident, but a personal pain over lost love and commitment, haunts him. David committed suicide because of the pain, and his body was delivered to a company straight out of science fiction. The last few minutes of the film are a ‘this is your life’ moment and he realizes that the Company (capitals) put him into his dream world. Fact is, David wasn’t really a very nice guy in real life, and the Company (capitals) acts as his salvation. Is this a Christian movie? I didn’t realize how much religion was in this movie until just now.
At the end, David is given a fundamental choice, which defines the movie’s theme. Does David remain in the dream world or return to life, given that his money wouldn’t last very long and all his friends are dead? It is the future, after all, and a very different place. We are never told much about this future world, but David accepts it despite the unknown. His decision takes courage and responsibility, which he lacked before entering the dream world. In effect, the movie tells us that dreaming or imagination itself opens the mind to new possibilities. Open your eyes, the movie shouts at us. Open them to what? To reality? To the future? To new beginnings? I think all of those things could be possibilities.
This movie is somewhat jumbled, so I can see why people don’t like it. However, I like the pace and the soundtrack, which complement the imagery and the movie’s very nature. The last few lines of dialogue twist the message and confront us with the possibilities of the future. Is David’s dream world really acceptable? Why has no one been able to help him? Why has the world failed to help people like David and allowed them to slip into a world of their own? I think this is probably most relevant today, where extremists are more common than ever. Perhaps people are isolating themselves more and more, just like David did, but the movie tells us that it is not hopeless. We can learn to live in the future. What will we bring?