The DVD, by Genius LLC, has no features, save a few theatrical trailers of other films. The film's score, by Philip Glass, is hit and miss- as often emotionally leading an audience by the nose as genuinely enhancing the film, a characteristic far too many Glass scores embody. The camera work by longtime Allen collaborator Vilmos Zsigmond is quite good. But, the writing is what sets this film apart from so many other routine `thrillers.' In a sense, Allen's problem with such a film reminds me of a similar problem that German director Werner Herzog had with his recent Vietnam War film, Rescue Dawn. So many critics focused on how its similarity in themes to earlier masterpieces by the director showed the later film up as inferior to the earlier ones that they missed out that the newer films were damned good on their own. Yes, Rescue Dawn is not as good, deep, and poetic as Aguirre: The Wrath Of God, and similarly Cassandra's Dream is not the almost perfectly crafted masterpiece that was Crimes And Misdemeanors, but so what? Both are outstanding films that, shorn of the comparisons, and if directed by artists other than Herzog and Allen, would have drawn unadorned raves. Also, it's helpful to note that the critics who dissed this film are the same folk who dissed the same earlier great Allen films when they came out, but who now hold them up as exemplars, only exemplifying the utter lack of critical acumen this essay's first sentence denotes.
This film also provides a terrific showcase for Colin Farrell to show off his acting chops. Playing against type, he is the weaker of the two brothers, and he is excellent, showing that he is not mere female eye candy, and that turns in stinkers, like Oliver Stone's Alexander, are not the best he can do. Ewan McGregor is good, as usual, as are the girlfriends, Atwell and Hawkins. Wilkinson is solid as the uncle, but the film might have given him a bit more to do. As is, his character is only a plot device to propel the brothers on their journeys, although the fumbling delivery Howard makes, and his digressions on why he won't consider a professional contract, make the scene all the more believable.
But, the film is so rich with great moments that detail character and plot, as mentioned earlier, that the screenplay could be used as an aid in screenwriting classes, for the film does trod over familiar Allen territory, but often with new twists and interesting asides which only deepen the resonance the film has. As example, after Ian meets Angela, he dumps his black girlfriend, Lucy, and a bit later, we see him callously telling his dad how special Angela is, and how much better and classier than any other girl he's dated she is. Lucy hears this, and the reaction she gives subtly lets us know how hurt she is and what an insensitive ass Ian is. There is also a scene where Ian questions Angela's ethic, by asking her if she'd sleep with a director to get a part, and she replies under what conditions she would. Ian, who has far weightier issues to deal with, seems stunned, but Angela puts him in his place by stating she gave the answers, but did not like the question. It's a small moment that shows that, while vain and egocentric, she does have a delineated ethical compass, and a penchant for giving as good as she gets- something many more one dimensional Allen sexpots lack. But, these are only two of a dozen or more such moments that enrich this film beyond mere `thriller' status.
And while Terry and Ian ruminate a bit on ethics they are not the typical Allen eggheads hemmed in by their intellectual prowess and emotional impotence. Their collective naïve-te is actually a bit refreshing, for when they repeat ideas hashed out in earlier Allen films (like the concept of `pushing a button' and someone is dead, borrowed from Crimes And Misdemeanors) or fixate on new ones (such as an addled Terry's claim that `It's always now!'- i.e.- the moment they committed murder) it is always in a different tone- one with more desperation, pathos, or stolidity- than before or expected. Also the fact that Allen, at several points, including the film's ending, seems to let the film settle into a groove that seems predictable, only to pull out the rug from under the viewers' expectations, lets the film maintain a tension and vigor it would otherwise lack. Viewers naturally desire clichés, in an emotional sense, for the comfort, yet when the film resists it the momentary disappointment blossoms into attraction to the storyline's turn from the expected, for manifest clichés invoke an intellectual resistance in a viewer, as well.
All in all, Cassandra's Dream is an outstanding and acidic portrait of family and crime, and one that was shamefully dismissed, when not neglected, by the idiotic elitists that populate the critical consensus that dominates film reviewing. Go against the grain, seek out this film on DVD, and let it work within you as well as on you.