DVD Release Date:  May 27, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  January 18, 2007 (limited)
Rating:  PG-13 (for thematic elements, some sexual material and brief violence)
Genre:  Murder Mystery
Run Time:  108 min.
Director:  Woody Allen
Actors:  Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson, John Benfield, Clare Higgins, Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins

London has been good to Woody Allen. Cassandra’s Dream, the third film in Allen’s London-based trilogy, rivals his earlier moral drama, Match Point, while exceeding that film’s technical craft and giving Colin Farrell the role of his career.

Brothers Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell) are both frustrated dreamers. Ian works for his father (John Benfield) at the family’s restaurant, but has no desire to take over the operation. Instead, he tells a new romantic interest, Angela (Hayley Atwell), that he’s invested in a couple of hotels planned for Los Angeles. With the help of his well connected Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), Ian hopes to move from London to a new life in L.A., where Angela, an actress, can pursue her career.

Terry, a mechanic with perpetually dirty fingernails, has a weakness for the dog track and the poker table. His high-stakes wins are followed by inevitable losses, and he soon finds himself deeply in debt, with loan sharks looming.

The tendency of the two brothers to live beyond their means is demonstrated by their shared purchase of a boat, “Cassandra’s Dream,” at the beginning of the film. The boat will also provide the setting for the film’s dark conclusion.

To finance their future, the brothers turn to their uncle, who has come to visit, but they are surprised when the uncle confides that he has his own desperate situation:  Someone is planning to testify against him for shady business practices, and the testimony is sure to put Howard away for years. There’s only one solution:  The associate needs to be killed.

Howard has been the family’s benefactor for years, sending cash to his sister (the brothers’ mother), who gripes about her husband’s struggles to provide for their family. The brothers, who had expected Howard’s largesse, now find the tables turned. They owe him, Howard insists. He needs them for once. Will they follow through?

No, they won’t. Their consciences won’t allow it. But after further reflection, Ian sees no other avenue to achieving his dreams, or to settling Terry’s debts. The shift in attitudes is notable. Ian is the more responsible of the two brothers, always bailing out his sibling and helping sustain the family business, while Terry is a ne’er do well on the path to destruction. Yet it is Terry, faced with no easy options to relieve his situation, who can’t abide the thought of murder, while Ian persuades him that there’s no other choice. The two men decide to carry out the murder, but with unforeseen ramifications.

Farrell, who has been hyped as a glamorous bad boy in films such as Miami Vice, Alexander, and The New World, has never come close to equaling what he does here. His character’s decisions are often foolish, but ultimately he’s tender-hearted, reluctant to follow through with the killing of Howard’s nemesis, and descending into emotional turmoil afterward. McGregor is also fine as the increasingly petulant Ian, insistent that Terry keep his mouth shut about their shared crime. When Terry shows no signs of sharing in Ian’s hardening of heart, Ian and Howard are forced to consider compounding their sin to silence Terry.