Cassandra's Dream Movie Poster Image

Cassandra's Dream

Woody Allen scores with suspenseful adult drama.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A man takes advantage of his nephew's desperation to get him involved in a murder plot, and he doesn't appear to feel conflicted about it. Two brothers plot to kill someone; in this case, they do seem overcome with guilt and despair, especially one of them, who in the end makes a fateful decision. One of the brothers demeans his family's fairly humble financial state (and "borrows" money from the till without asking). He also has a habit of "borrowing" cars from the garage where his brother works so he can pretend to be rich. But the brothers do seem to watch out for each other (until one significant moment ...).


Implied violence, as when the camera tracks a duo's every move as they follow the man they're going to kill; at the last moment, the scene cuts away as they do the deed. A handmade gun is brandished about; brothers have a brutal fight in which they hit and push each other; some yelling at tense moments; much discussion of ways to "off" someone.


Sexual banter between couples; kissing and pawing (but no outright nudity). A woman appears to have difficulty staying faithful, at least in the beginning.


Some use of "damn" and "hell" and other mild forms of swearing, but nothing particularly strong.


A woman squeals with delight when her boyfriend buys her a designer bag; Hollywood and the movie business are discussed a few times; a few scenes clearly depict monied types who can dine out and drink in expensive establishments. Much discussion about the purchase of a boat; some characters seem to revere having money above all.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking in social settings, like restaurants, bars, and parties. One character seems to like drinking a little too much and has a problem with prescription drugs, too (viewers don't see him partaking, though he does ask for them when he needs some, and he and his girlfriend argue about his overuse). Some smoking, but not excessive.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that teens probably won't be interested in this Woody Allen drama, which has some mature themes -- namely, murder and how killing cannibalizes the soul. Lies build upon lies, and although the actual crime isn't shown explicitly, the lead-up to it is fairly detailed, including lots of discussion about how it will happen. Guns are brandished, too, and one character seems completely lacking in conscience. But in the end, a moral center is found, and the "punishment" meted out seems quite grim.

What's the story?

Life seems fairly idyllic for two English brothers in CASSANDRA'S DREAM. Ambitious Ian (Ewan McGregor) might have a chance at making some real money with a hotel venture, and soft-hearted Terry (Colin Farrell) has hit a winning streak at the track. But matters soon take a nightmarish turn. Ian falls for vampy, worldly actress Angela (Hayley Atwell) and, partly to impress her, wants out of his father's humble restaurant so he can finally join the big leagues and become a hotelier. And Terry racks up monstrous gambling debts he can't pay with his mechanic's salary. Money and salvation arrive in the form of the legendary Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), a self-made millionaire who bent some laws trying to make money off a deal and now needs his nephews to perform an unsavory deed: murder. Out of loyalty and desperation, they accept his proposal, but neither is prepared for how the other will react in the aftermath.

Is it any good?


Director Woody Allen has finally found his groove again. In Cassandra's Dream, Allen -- who lost his way in recent years with duds like Scoop and Melinda and Melinda -- makes a successful return to subjects that have repeatedly fascinated him: crime and punishment. He headed in that direction with Match Point, which itself was a retread of Crimes and Misdemeanors (arguably one of Allen's masterpieces). But while Match Point strained to be sophisticated and analytical, Cassandra's Dream is a lean, mean, taut machine.

Which isn't to say that the movie doesn't have flaws. For starters, characters often explain rather than banter. (Where, oh where, has Allen's complete ease with dialogue gone?) They're also drawn so much to type that it's comic -- in the beginning, Angela is such a man eater that she might as well have been feasting on human flesh. But there's no doubt that Allen teases out wonderfully layered performances from his actors, specifically Farrell (painfully tragic) and Wilkinson (icy and manipulative). And the movie doesn't suffer from dull spots -- suspenseful moments are played for maximum tension, while uncomfortable ones enhance the drama.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's take on what happens to a murderer in the wake of his crime. Do the reactions seem realistic or "Hollywood-ized"? Why is the movie industry fascinated with this subject? Are there lessons to be learned from that fascination in general -- or this movie specifically? What does this movie have in common with other Woody Allen films? How is it different?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 17, 2008
DVD/Streaming release date:May 27, 2008
Cast:Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson
Director:Woody Allen
Studio:Weinstein Co.
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, some sexual material and brief violence.

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Parent of a 13 year old Written bycolten97 October 10, 2012

Simply Brilliant...

** Comments indirectly reveal overall outcome of film ** I always think of Allen as an intimate Kubrick. Everyone is so quick to judge both filmmakers, and critics are often divided evenly on their films. I am always astonished at the amount of anger surrounding Woody Allen's work, like everyone is wanting his films to be a certain way; to deliver a certain 'thing' they are not getting like they used to. Granted, with someone as prolific as Mr. Allen, not all films can be masterpieces. Hitchcock certainly only made a small handful of 'perfect' films. I go so far as to say that "Psycho" is deeply flawed, yet endlessly hailed as a classic because of it's astonishing parts. Then "Frenzy" comes along which is dark, psychological, disturbing, and a complete departure for the director and it is rejected by the community of critics as a 'lessor' or 'minor' work, only to re-emerge years later redefined as a underrated classic. Would people say of Hitchcock, "Gee. He keeps retreading the same theme of murder in all of his films?" Kubrick's "2001," my personal favorite, was slammed by many critics in its time. In fact, throughout his career, Kubrick was endlessly accused of recycling his themes in every picture. Let's not forget "Citzen Kane" and the career of Orson Welles so brutalized in it's time, only to now reveal its genius. In the end, I think everyone's got it wrong with "Cassandra's Dream." Allen's films are ultimately, like Shakespeare, somewhat philosophical and are 'about' murder, morality, fear, and the human predicament, and self- consciously display the classic elements of tragedy. They are not mere entertainment. Why does no one mention the brilliance and sad lyricism of just the opening shot alone? Two innocent boys running side by side, naturalistic-ally framed within a dark, gloomy universe.. I felt the Philip Glass score was perfect for the film in establishing a classic tragic tone to cast the boys into.. It's composed just right for a Woody Allen film, despite what critics have said. The first dialogue reveals that the boys cannot afford their boat and plan to name it after a winning dog at the racetrack.. My, how we all hope for the winning hand to make us more than we are.. Yes, why can't we be happy with what we have? Notice the composition of each shot.. The colors... The chaos in the backgrounds. The faces of fear in the blue light when hiding behind the doorway... The loss of humanity in Ian.. The gaining of it in the sweet face of Terry... Ahh, the empty material dreams of us all... Yes, Woody Allen has done a murder story before, but he certainly has not told this one. It was very unique and true to these darker times. There are so many murders in the real world every day and so many seen in the movies... Here, we are taken through the depths of only ONE... One only witnessed in our minds eye and felt in our emotions. Much to reflect upon when the closing credits roll: All we are, all we are raised to be, all we hope to gain, what we will do to survive, all we may lose, all we learn... Fate... Chance... A mighty king comes with a wicked deed... Innocence lost... Brotherly love torn apart...Wisdom at great cost. I say, it was great. Carry on, Mr. Allen, with all due respect....
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 September 28, 2013

Atypical Allen dramedy

While sites I've visited have labeled this a crime drama, I'd put it more in the dramedy section of Allen's work, along with the recent "Blue Jasmine." I really enjoyed the movie, and the differences between the brothers, even though they're not bickering, but simply going through the same moral dilemma with differing views. I just felt the film didn't have great balance, the latter half significantly darker than the first. But McGregor and Farrell really come to play in these roles, especially Farrell who's Terry is deeply haunted.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 0 years old January 8, 2010

You have got to be kidding me

15+?????? Are you serious? This is an incredible entry into drama from Woody Allen, very tame and you give it 15+? Violence is implied, but rarely shown, sex has some references, but nothing major, very mild language. But anyway, Woody Allen, has produced comedy successes such as "Take The Money And Run" and, now he go's into drama. When Woody Allen does, it is a huge success. Packed with suspense, and tension this is a must see. Ignore the over protective review from common sense, this movie is iffy for age 8, on for age 9.