Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Running Time: 159 mins
Eyes Wide Shut is an American film about a New York City doctor who spends a long night traversing the city, encountering a bizarre, terrifying underworld that haunts his morals after a terrible revelation from his wife.
As undeniably legendary a director as Stanley Kubrick is, there has always been a heated debate over the reputation of his controversial final film: Eyes Wide Shut. It doesn’t quite follow the genre-breaking style of Kubrick’s most famous works, but I can safely say that it’s actually one of his best by a long way, using a seemingly more normal and relatable premise to craft riveting drama, exhilarating thrills and some of the most bizarre and strangely entertaining things you’ll ever see on the big screen.
There is so much to unpack about Eyes Wide Shut, but one thing to know about the film before setting out and watching it is that it is a slow, long watch. That’s not to say it’s boring in the slightest (and is also nowhere near as slow as the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey), but it can be rather a daunting prospect, particularly when the movie starts off with arguably its most inaccessible period.
Ultimately, Eyes Wide Shut is a brilliantly exciting, tense mystery thriller, but it takes about 40 minutes or so to really take on that persona, starting off as a quieter, slower and even more abstract study on marital fidelity and love. In that, it may seem difficult to get into at first, even pretentious to some with its long-winded, abstract dialogue sequences, but Kubrick brilliantly grabs your attention anyway with subtle touches that give what seems like a rather slow-paced opening act some thrilling energy right from the beginning.
The opening party sequence alone is absolutely gorgeous to watch, with those classically unsettling long takes seen before in the likes of The Shining pulling you immediately into a world of opulence where things may seem fairly honest, but where something else is clearly at play beneath the surface.
That’s where Kubrick’s touch really hits home, in getting a less-than-stellar opening act off to an exhilarating start, and in tandem with brilliantly entertaining and deliberately hyperbolic turns from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman early on, I was absolutely hooked on Eyes Wide Shut right from the get-go.
Then, at the end of the first act, there’s a major revelation that sends Tom Cruise’s character off into the New York City night, where he finds himself stumbling upon a bizarre, disturbing underworld.
Now, while the opening act has some interesting drama and striking directing, Eyes Wide Shut really kicks up a gear as we move into the mystery part of the movie, and for the following hour and fifty minutes or so, it pulls you in deeper and deeper into a world that you think can’t get any stranger, but keeps surprising and shocking you with every single twist and turn.
Mind you, with its slow pacing, it’s not an exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat thriller, but what Eyes Wide Shut definitely is is yet another masterful piece of work by Kubrick, who uses his astonishing talents to create tension and devastatingly unsettling drama to brilliant effect here, as I found myself entirely captivated with a story that doesn’t seem to make too much sense on the surface, but has so much intrigue and ingenious intricacy within.
What’s more, Kubrick’s apparent glee for taking you on this bizarre ride into the underworld also translates into what I think is his most entertaining film of all. It may not have the dramatic gravitas of some of his most acclaimed works throughout, and it perhaps loses some of its emotional intrigue after the end of the first act, but what it does have is a fully engrossing and bizarrely entertaining fascination for the strange, leaving you on tenterhooks, unable to ever second guess what’s coming up around the next corner.
Of course, with that spellbinding cinematography, a classically disturbing and piercing score, and Kubrick’s directorial touch on every corner of every scene, it’s hard to look away from Eyes Wide Shut at any point, and as you dive deeper and deeper into a world of terrifying yet enthralling curiosities, the film only becomes more and more engrossing and unexpectedly entertaining, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.5 overall.