"Eyes Wide Shut" was to be Stanley Kubrick's final movie, he died on the 7th March 1999, 4 months before it received its premiere and reportedly less than a week after he finished his final cut. Why is this fact important, well Kubrick was a cinematic genius, he crafted movies, painstakingly putting them together to deliver his perfect vision and as such it feels like "Eyes Wide Shut" is cherished by those who love Kubrick because there would be no more. And to be honest this is a movie of stunning camera work, brilliant visuals and a style that no one could replicate, heck Kubrick even got a very mature performance from Tom Cruise. The trouble is that "Eyes Wide Shut" is dull, shocking statement considering the huge amount of nudity and sex which is part of the story but the reason it's dull is because it's drawn out to the point that when it should become thrilling it doesn't. Of course some will revel in the deeper context of the movie, what it is saying about society but from an entertainment point of view it is hard work.
After his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman - Practical Magic) admits to him that she once contemplated sleeping with another man Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise - Mission: Impossible) finds not only his world come crashing down but lead on a weird sexual adventure. From the daughter of a recently deceased patient to a hooker sex continually presents itself until he learns of a secret sex club which piques his interest but also leads him into a world of danger he could have never imagined.
It doesn't take long for you to realise that Stanley Kubrick was going to try and provoke a reaction with "Eyes Wide Shut" as the opening scene features Nicole Kidman on the toilet and then wiping herself dry, you don't see anything but at the same time you don't see this sort of thing in most movies. This continues through out the movie but used during the first third to build up the storyline of Dr. Harford's world come crashing down when his wife Alice tells him that she once considered being unfaithful. We see a naked woman who has over dosed, we have Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman getting it on and other various moments of nudity which whilst there to establish the sexual nature of the story also seem to have been crafted to provoke a reaction.
Having set up the fact that Dr. Harford's world has suddenly come crashing to a halt, plagued by visions of Alice getting humped by a sailor, we basically have Harford's strange journey of sex. He has a close encounter with a daughter who has recently lost her father, there is a prostitute and also a daughter of a fancy dress shop owner all there teasing and tempting him before we watch Harford go to an underground sex party. Now if I said that Kubrick was trying to provoke a reaction early on he certainly goes for it when we observe what you could call "sex club" as we witness numerous naked bodies and acts of sex. If it wasn't for the fact that these sex acts end up being so one level you could say that at times "Eyes Wide Shut" veers towards being porn.
And that is the problem with "Eyes Wide Shut" it is all one level, there is no excitement, no dramatic rise and fall just a story which plays out on one level. Yes we have the final third of the movie which focuses on the day after Harford's visit to "sex club" where things end up different to what they first seem but it's not thrilling enough. It almost feels that Kubrick spent so much time trying to create the perfect look in every scene that it lacks punch and it is a shame because you do become intrigued by what will happen to Harford, you just want more excitement.
Now of course there is the fact that Kubrick as well as crafting the perfect looking movie also had something to say and "Eyes Wide Shut" has that level of context for those who seek a lot of depth. It's easy to see that Kubrick was trying to deliver a message about the impersonalisation of sex and yes he does deliver that message. But again the trouble is that everything is so drawn out that it almost feels lost in his desire to craft the perfect looking movie.
Now one good thing about "Eyes Wide Shut" is that Kubrick got a different sort of performance from Tom Cruise, a more mature restrained performance which you could say toned down all his trademarks and got him acting. It does make it interesting as does the fact that he stars opposite his then wife Nicole Kidman who similarly gives a very restrained performance. But then whilst Cruise and Kidman's characters are central it is all the supporting performances from Todd Field as Nick through to Leelee Sobieski as the daughter of the costume shop owner which make the movie so interesting.
What this all boils down to is that on one hand "Eyes Wide Shut" is another brilliant looking movie from Kubrick which provokes you into an opinion when you watch. But the trouble for me is that it seems that in his attempt to deliver perfection Kubrick has ended up making the storyline drawn out and dull when it should be becoming exciting.