17 July 1999 | Skywise-4
A fitting completion to Kubrick's study of humanity
I managed to swallow my expectations before the film, setting myself to judge it on its own without judging it as a Kubrick film. No need, no need! This film IS a Kubrick film, without any doubt, and as all Kubrick films are it was absolutely stunning. Absolutely. Visually it is brilliant, though I should warn that this isn't quite as visual a film as most other Kubrick works. A lot of the film focuses on the characters, on human interaction, something rather new to this director. Of course, all the Kubrick trademarks are there, cold analytical gazes, sharp introspection. Tom Cruise seems like Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' and even Malcolm MacDowell in 'A Clockwork Orange' at times, a rather striking fact considering that this is Tom Cruise. The performances were excellent all around, even from places not expected. Again, this is typical for Kubrick. He wasn't much of a people director, but he still knew how to direct people.
Almost every moment of this film was flawless, perfect and pristine. The dialog is predictable, but in some solemn and holy fateful sort of way, as though the words and the moments are matched so essentially that nothing else could possibly fit. Beyond that the sounds and images all fit together beautifully, creating an almost unblemished whole. The only part that didn't seem right was the sequence that had been digitally altered. While the alterations were not nearly so obtrusive as I had feared (not knowing about them one probably wouldn't notice them) they do grow a bit noticeable for redundancy (you see a lot more backs than you'd expect, and always in the same places). Unfortunately these came right in the middle of one of the most visually amazing pieces of the film (one of the most amazing pieces of cinema as a whole, in my opinion), a very unwelcome distraction.
Is this movie about sex? Yes, it is, but more importantly it is about people. The sex part is simply a product thereof. This is one of the most disturbingly honest portraits of human behavior and motivations ever made. The most honest I've ever seen, at least. To be put simply: It is about sex because people are about sex.
I'm still trying to sort through this movie. It's been a good twelve hours since I saw it, and I can still feel it, hard and definite, rotating in my stomach. The film itself seems mostly void of opinion (not entirely, but mostly), serving more as a general statement and commentary than any specific moral warning, but the questions it inspires are very strong indeed. The film, being objective, provides no answers, no justification for humanity. There is no redemption, either, none whatsoever. The film's final word sums it (it being the film and humanity) up pretty well, for better or for worse. I guess that depends on you.
A common thread in Kubrick's films since 2001 has been the contemplation and examination of human intentions, the essence of human behavior. Motivations. He's shown us violence and madness and everything else, all tracking the path back to the dawn of man. I think he finally figured it out with this film, however anticlimactic the discovery might have been. At least he did finally figure it out. That's something.
I am one of many. I never had the privilege to know Stanley Kubrick. I don't even know that privilege is the right word. I do know his films, though, and while I am in no position to say that I will miss him as a person, I can say, without doubt or hesitation, that I will miss him as a filmmaker.