Open Your Eyes

There's nothing more maddening than being dropped into a movie, getting to know its characters, walking with them through twists and turns only to be told that— surprise, stupid!— it was all a dream/lie/virtual-reality simulation. From "Who Shot J.R.?" to the ongoing crop of was-it-real-or-Playstation? movies, the whole "I lied" thing has become an overused gambit, making for punch-line-based flicks that are only watchable once. Open Your Eyes wants to offer a less bird-flipping spin on such tricky filmmaking, and in most ways it does, taking the audience on a trip through the messed-up head of Madrid pretty boy Cesar (Eduardo Noriega). Eyes opens in one of Cesar's nightmares, but before he can get too freaked out, he awakes next to his latest conquest, Nuria (Najwa Nimri), a combination of sex appeal and psychosis. Despite her stalker vibes, Cesar toys with her and uses her as a stepping stone to the actual woman of his dreams (Penelope Cruz). Nuria takes revenge by going Elephant Man on Cesar's fine features, after which Eyes starts messing with everyone's head in earnest, as Cesar slips in and out of dreams about his troubles all being, well, dreams. (Eyes doesn't settle for that particular trick ending, it settles for another.) Writer-director Alejandro Amenabar handles these changes agilely enough, and despite its flashy premise, Eyes provides some affecting moments, as when it lingers over a disfigured Cesar losing himself in the anonymity of a dance floor. Amenabar may drop the ball with a surprise happy ending, but the real shock is that when Cesar finally opens his eyes, you feel he's earned it.

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