So a few weeks back, I put together my Top 5 Kubrick movies, happily taking them into work to show my film buddy Austin, who always likes to hear about my recent rankings and we discuss and share our favourites. (Hi Aust!) I was very surprised when he claimed his favourite of all was Kubrick’s swansong Eyes Wide Shut. Wait, wha?
I guess I remembered Eyes Wide Shut through clips I had seen and the terrible UK posters that made it look like just another Hollywood thriller. It is not, Jesus it is not. Austin was correct, Eyes Wide Shut is a fucking masterpiece.
I will try not to spoil too much here as part of the magic of the film is following Tom Cruise’s Dr Bill down the rabbit hole of sex and violence, confusion and seduction. It’s scary, its thrilling, it leaves you breathless and its two and a half hour running time speeds along. What you should know is that this is Cruise’s best performance ever. Sure, Born On The Fourth of July might be more of an Oscar baiting triumph and is also a masterpiece, but here you see what you think is ‘usual Cruise material’ being twisted and burned by Kubrick’s perfect scripting.
The first half of the movie feels like a great lost Tennessee Williams play, it is mostly Cruise and Kidman and a lot of it makes you think of the Broadway stage, an intimate portrait of a ‘perfect’ marriage rocked to its core by an admission, not of cheating, just the thought of cheating. This is such a Cronenberg style touch that it makes you think about every relationship you ever had. Dr Bill’s thoughts take this admission to its natural conclusion and soon he is walking the streets at night, ironically choosing life outside the relationship instead of going home and fixing the relationship. Ouch.
Then, in the second half, we flip and we’re at a party where we and more importantly Dr Bill do not know the rules. Only that everyone is wearing masks, there is a password to enter and anything goes in the sexual arena, provided you have the keyword. It’s only a small part of the film but paints everything that follows. It works in a similar way to Fincher’s classic of a few years previous The Game – how much of this is real? How much is theatre? Which brings us to how much of real life is theatre? The smiles, the kisses, the people who are close to you, what does it all mean and how much of it is just in your head and means nothing? Yeah, the usual Kubrick heaviness.
With the possible exceptions of Marilyn at the top of her game or Samantha Mathis in Pump Up The Volume, Nicole Kidman here is the most glowing sparkling beautiful woman to ever grace the screen – again, you question how much of this is real and also why Dr Bill is out scouring the town when he has perfection at home, more questions but really Kidman is astounding throughout.
Interestingly, the film’s gestation began when Kubrick read Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler in 1968 as he was looking for a project to follow up the iconic 2001. It’s crazy that this most modern of modern tales was based upon a 1926 novella, but just shows Kubrick’s brilliance once again.
The legacy of Eyes Wide Shut? Well, after you’ve seen it, you’ll hear echoes of it in Hereditary, Get Out, Us, Kill List, basically every lauded Independent horror film of the last decade owes a tip of the cap to this one. Also, the scenes of Cruise walking the streets at night make you wonder how an American Psycho with Tom in the lead role would have played out and I say that as the biggest Bret Easton Ellis fan in the world, so that shows you how glorious the megastar is in this one.
Eyes Wide Shut is the sort of film where after watching it, like Dr Bill, you need to take a long walk to think about and then send ‘I Love You’ to your beloved. It will also, like many many Kubrick classics before it, remain in your brain and make you question life, love and goddamn everything.
Eyes Wide Shut is a fucking masterpiece. Thanks Austin.