No one can argue that Stanley Kubrick was a hack. With films like "Dr. Strangelove" and "A Clockwork Orange" on his filmography, his work speaks for itself. Unfortunately, his final film doesn't live up to its predecessors.
"Eyes Wide Shut" had good intentions, but it didn't reach the Promised Land. The concept is exceptional - what happens when the unspeakable thoughts each of us have are revealed and made tangible? It could have been an intense psychological examination of the battle between inhibition and desire, but it never got there.
Where "Eyes" falters is in its pseudo-exploitation of sex. This isn't a sexy movie; it's not even a turn-on movie. You see a lot of bare breasts and nipples and there's plenty of ambiguous thrusting and lustfulness, but this isn't anything new. The sex is void of emotional content and because of that, the movie is lacking the raw axis it needs.
At times the film almost finds its legs. The pivotal early scene where Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) tells her husband Bill (Tom Cruise) about her passionate attraction to another man is a tight, well-crafted moment. The careful attention given this moment is evident, it's just a shame the rest of the movie doesn't hit the same emotional high.
The film begins to fall apart shortly after Alice's revelation. Propelled by images of his wife with this "other" man, Bill walks the night streets of Greenwich Village with a vengeance. But is his vengeance an effort to get even or is he lashing out at his own inhibitions? It's a question that's left in the air because we never get a significant look into Bill's character.
Providing insight into Bill's psyche would have saved the much-talked-about orgy scene. If we had any clue as to why he propelled himself into a world of anonymous group sex it would have heightened the tension. This mid-point of the film is supposed to be mysterious and unnerving, but at many points it was inadvertently comical. Strange people in cloaks and masks congregate at a huge mansion. Organ music fills the cavernous rooms and cult rituals are performed. After incense is sprayed about, topless women pair off with cloaked figures. The rest of the night is spent writhing on tables and having anonymous sex with people in expensive masks. I half-expected to see the mask from Scream somewhere in the crowd.
This scene is meant to be important, but it doesn't work that way. I was laughing when I should have been tense and shocked.
After the orgy fiasco, "Eyes" spirals downward. At certain points it plays out like a detective thriller, but that aspect is quickly discarded. Climactic scenes meant to be teeming with dramatic revelation are played out by Cruise in a stunted, William Shatner manner. The movie could have been 20 minutes shorter if Cruise had just let the words flow.
Ultimately, "Eyes" is a disappointment. Visually, it's stunning, but its aesthetic beauty cannot overcome its flaws.
Filmfodder Grade: D
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.