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In Dreams

Dreamworks/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . MA15+ . PAL


I suppose it has been hard for Neil Jordan to keep coming up with the goods after The Crying Game. Most directors would have a hard time following through after what is probably considered his best work and one that just happens to contain the most discussed twist in a film ever. Still, he keeps trying, with varying degrees of success. Although he doesn’t quite create a total success here with In Dreams, one thing he does do successfully is create one hell of a great looking film. Taken on the look alone, In Dreams is a treat, with an intense style and appealing cinematography that has the world cloaked in a veil of darkness, and actually considerably aids in tying the overall appeal of film together.

The story has Claire Cooper as the recipient of haunting fragmented dreams in which she is able to see the fate of young children that are being snatched by a serial killer stalking the area. While no-one believes her, it is when she learns that the dreams are of things to come and they are being deliberately fed into her mind by the killer that her problems really begin. With the dreams soon becoming more personal and even invading her mind during waking hours, she becomes increasingly unstable and erratic. When finally locked away in an institution, she discovers the secret of his identity and what she must do to confront him.

Close but no banana, is probably the best way to put the final result of this film. It certainly has a few things going for it, with bearable (but not great) performances from most of the cast. The problem is that it doesn't feel like anyone is given enough screen time to really develop their characters and it tends to create hints at things that go nowhere.

Annette Bening isn't my favourite actor at the best of times, as I think she has little range to create believable characters. This role, however, just requires her to go from normal in the first 5 minutes straight to nutcase. That's not asking too much from an actor, so she moderately succeeds here. The rest, with the exception of Robert Downey, Jr., are forgettable as mere plot points. Downey is perfectly suited to his unhinged role, even though there is way too little of him on screen. I think his real life drug problem actually works in his favour, because he seems to create some great roles, such as in Wonder Boys.

Taken as a whole, the film is a little like many of the characters, unhinged, unfocused and borrowing from other movies. While it is still an enjoyable and at times slightly creepy film, by the end you feel like you've missed something in the middle and have been cheated out of a better nights viewing somehow.


For the first ten minutes of watching this film, I was debating whether my television had suddenly lost its calibration, or the dvd needed to go back for remastering. A few more minutes in and I realised that there was nothing wrong with the picture at all and I was watching a very interestingly filmed picture. What had tripped me up initially was simply the massive volumes of darkness in the picture. At almost any point, the foreground seems to lack direct lighting and rely solely on well placed (but rather minimalist) reflected lighting. It was then that I realised that the middle to background areas of scenes appeared in perfect balance, with good natural light and nice colour balance. Actually, the effect of this upon the film is perfectly apt for such a storyline, coming across all grim and concealing in a film that plays with mental breakdown, spooky prophetic dreams and the supernatural. On top of that, the print and the transfer quality is exceptional at times, and “merely” fantastic at others. There is wonderful warmth with much of the saturation, from the brighter sections right through to the rich blacks, which is nicely alternated with the blues of the underwater shots. You’ll catch hardly a blemish on the print, so clean is it, and the actual rendering of the sometimes striking footage is spot on.


In Dreams has a very well balanced soundstage which pleasingly recreates the moody ambience and quiet reflective sections of dialogue, and the punctuation with dramatic sonic outbursts and other more subtle support from the rear channels. When it does kick into higher gear, it uses the dynamic abilities of the front and surround channels to great effect, but only when really necessary, and without feeling as though it is needlessly expanding into 5.1 then collapsing back into mono once the dramatic scenes are over. Characters had a very good presence to their dialogue, which made them feel well within the confines of the room at times, adding to the feeling of confinement and intimacy. All these elements are used particularly well to emphasise the disturbing nature of the Robert Downey, Jr character, with his voice and taunts echoing around your head, giving you to a small degree a sensation of the experience which drives Bening round the bend.


The only extra is a theatrical trailer which I played before watching the film to get an idea of what was to come. I felt the trailer was a great indication of the content of the film and was very good in setting up the mood of the forthcoming main feature, which is dark and depressing.


This isn’t going to be a film that everyone will enjoy, but then again, what film is? Weighing up the pros and cons, for the cons I’d say that the film felt rushed in the second half and could easily have used a bit of padding to polish the story. Also, some people are really going to have a problem with the very dark look of the picture. For the pros, this is one great looking film, with visuals and a colour scheme that really was interesting to watch and worked well in my opinion. The story, though a tad stunted, was still appealing (even if nothing original) and even the ending was to my tastes. Pity about the lack of extras, but then you’d probably be buying this dvd for the just the movie anyway if you really wanted it.

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