Eyes Wide Shut Review


If The Shining was Stanley Kubrick‘s experimentation with the horror conventions, his final film, 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, is his perfection of them. Not since, The Silence of the Lambs (maybe even The Thing or Alien) has pure dread been so eloquently captured on film. And it’s arguably not even a horror film! “Psychological thriller” would likely be the more accurate classification, which seems fair, considering the film is thrilling and a total mind fuck. However you spin it, though, Kubrick’s swan song is a worthy one. It’s something that never could have lived up to the expectations placed on it in the moment, but with the breathing space of a decade, it seems Eyes Wide Shut has finally attained the label it so deserves—masterpiece.

Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), have a generally amicable marriage, but passion is something unheard of for many years between them. While attending a party at the grand home of a friend, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), Alice drinks a lot and dances and flirts with an older gentleman. Bill, meanwhile, entertains two busty young ladies before being called to attend to a naked prostitute who overdosed while in the company of Victor.

A few days later, Alice grills Bill about where he disappeared to with these women. While he tries to get to the bottom of this misunderstanding, she admits to almost cheating on him years ago with a naval officer. So intense was her emotional dissatisfaction with Bill that she was willing to throw everything else away for only the briefest moment of true passion.

This sets Bill on fire. He excuses himself to visit the loved ones of a just-deceased patient, but the night takes a number of unexpected and truly bizarre turns. He’s kissed by this patient’s daughter. He almost beds a prostitute. And he meets up with an old med school friend (turned piano player), Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), who tells Bill about an odd series of gigs he’s been working. “I have seen one or two things in my life,” he tells Bill, “but never, never anything like this.”

What follows, of course, is hardly a secret all these years later. Bill manages to gain admittance to a masked orgy, where the presence of outsiders is more than a little unwelcome. Between the masks and the chanting (which upset more than a few people), it’s a frightening scene and not the least bit titillating. And things don’t get much less creepy for Bill after this strange night.

Perhaps Kubrick’s greatest skill is his ability to create atmosphere, and Eyes Wide Shut might be his most atmospheric film of all. Between the unforgettable, one-note (literally) score and the dark hues of New York’s nighttime streets, Eyes Wide Shut is nothing if not a showcase for its director’s dread-building capabilities. And Cruise sells it like the pro he is. He and Kidman might seem like odd fits for a Kubrickian horror film, but they’re both excellent.

Because Kubrick passed before post-production on the film was completed, we’ll never really know what Kubrick’s final vision for Eyes Wide Shut was. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was damn close to it because the film is one of his very best.

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