Cassandra’s Dream

Woody Allen’s latest crime-drama is a precision instrument—namely, another of his London-set morality plays, well-calibrated and nimbly deployed. And for the first three quarters, it’s brilliant. Ewan McGregor and Colin Ferrell star as working-class brothers from a shabby suburb whose status anxiety leaves them dangerously beholden to their wealthy, shady uncle, played by Tom Wilkinson. A gambling debt, a (far-fetchedly) chance encounter with an enchanting actress (Hayley Atwell), and a much-dreaded dirty deed add up to what would be riveting, shattering suspense were it not for the writer-director’s preoccupation with grim dramatic inevitability. The movie ends by imposing the structural requirements of classical tragedy too bluntly, belaboring its bleak, well-established worldview. Call it another take on Match Point, Allen’s distressingly similar outing from 2005—or, if you prefer, a superior version of Sidney Lumet’s archly grave and narratively jittery Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (although some partisans surely will suggest that was the superior picture). Allen’s continued insistence of the world’s moral vacuum and all the anguish it causes may register distastefully—or even boringly—to some. But that doesn’t diminish expectedly great performances by McGregor and Wilkinson, and, against all odds, an absolutely revelatory one from Ferrell.