- Ewan McGregor as Ian
- Colin Farrell as Terry
- Tom Wilkinson as Uncle Howard
- Hayley Atwell as Angela
- Sally Hawkins as Kate
- Clare Higgins as Dorothy
A dramatic thriller from Woody Allen that suffers from odd pacing, a none too special script that rehashes old ideas Allen has explored in other movies more successfully and lack of involving events, Cassandra’s Dream had currency but nearly every element conspires against it and we’re left watching a sub par film from a talented director.
Ian and Terry are two cockney brothers; the oldest Ian helps his somewhat lax father in his restaurant, whereas Terry works as a mechanic in a local garage and is engaged to the sweet Kate. What binds both of the brothers is the sense of financial dissatisfaction. This is heightened even more when Ian meets the beautiful but demanding actress , who he becomes very attracted to. Having always had aspirations to set up hotels in the Suns of California, inspires Ian to make some money to fulfill his dreams but also benefit her in the long run. Terry, who is prone to booze and excessive gambling despite being a well-meaning man, falls into debt and owes a lot of money to loan sharks who know how to hurt. With both brothers desperate for monetary stability and fast, help seems to come in the shape of their Uncle Howard, who they have always looked up to. He has helped the family in the past and being a self-made man, has worked his way up to being a millionaire. Yet for all this hard work, a lot of his deals have been on the very shady side. He agrees to endow his nephews if they first do one thing for him. It appears that one of Howard’s associates is threatening to expose some of his less than savory antics. The cunning and sinister Howard says the only way to stop his crook tactics in business from being exposed is to have the man killed, which he asks Ian and Terry to carry out. Both brothers are shocked by what he is asking them to do, but both come round to the idea( despite Terry becoming still twitchy about the lack of morality.) The brothers eventually manage to carry out the murderous deed successfully, but it begins to change their relationship. Ian, who wanted the money to keep up with high maintenance Angela, decides to think as if nothing happened as he becomes enamoured with the lump sum coming his way. On the other hand, Terry becomes eaten up by unspeakable guilty that consumes him more and more each day that leads to the shattering of him and his brother’s close friendship and spells very bad circumstances for both men.
While it must be stated that Woody Allen is a very gifted director and writer, Cassandra’s Dream doesn’t really paint his talent in the best way because of a number of issues and inconsistencies. You see Cassandra’s Dream is billed as a dramatic thriller with a morality theme at the centre(much like many of Allen’s later movies), yet it is curiously neither thrilling or dramatic. Granted, there are a few scenes with a bit of tension, yet none of them feel very suspenseful or at all that riveting. The way that the pace varies from very quick to a snail-like drudge does not help matters whatsoever. Cassandra’s Dream may be set in London like Match Point, but whereas that movie really had an urgency and dealt with themes of ambition, a sense of wealth and the cruelty of life, the same can’t be said of this misstep. A lot of it feels very clichéd and unlike some of his other work, many characters aren’t interesting enough as people to invest in or relate to. Thankfully there is at least some respite to be found in a gloomy visual style and a moody score from Philip Glass, that lends a degree of darkness to the film which it sorely lacks throughout a lot of it.
One other thing that keeps Cassandra’s Dream at least bearable is most of the cast, who rise above the somewhat checkered source material to turn in good work despite the script’s shortcomings. Despite them both sporting dodgy cockney accents, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell impress the brothers in predicaments and torn apart by their actions. Ewan McGregor makes Ian likable and the most ambitious of the two, who seems to become more avaricious after committing murder and wanting the good life. Colin Farrell is the real standout, wearing his heart on his sleeve as the nervous Terry. Never has Farrell shown so much vulnerability and gentleness before, but here he really makes quite the impact with this change of pace as the emotionally tormented man forced into a dire situation that ruins him from the inside. As excellent as Tom Wilkinson is as the scheming and blackmailing Uncle Howard, I would have preferred to see more of him as I am a big fan of Tom Wilkinson. That doesn’t mean that he was bad here, he is far from it, he just feels shortchanged and not featured enough in the story, especially as his actions have a lot of effect on the story. Despite the underwritten nature of their characters, Hayley Atwell and Sally Hawkins do their best as the demanding, opportunistic Angela who bewitches Ian and the caring and tolerant Kate, who starts to worry for boyfriend Terry. The same can’t be said of Claire Higgins who is criminally wasted as the boy’s mother.
With little in the way of thrills or tension, Cassandra’s Dream falls very flat and despite some good parts, none can make up for the disjointed quality of what ranks as one Woody Allen’s weakest outings as director.