Red Eye

2006-07-13 10:25


If there's one thing Lisa (Rachel McAdams) hates, it's flying, but tonight she has no choice. An unplanned trip to Texas has pulled her away from her job managing a top Miami hotel, and now she needs to get home. The hotel is expecting an important guest - the deputy director of Homeland Security - and Lisa wants to be there to make sure everything runs smoothly. Though her flight is delayed, she meets a charming, handsome young stranger named Jackson (Cillian Murphy) with whom she has little trouble passing the time. To her surprise, and even a little delight, she finds herself seated next to Jackson on the plane. But as soon as they have taken off Jackson drops his charming facade. He is part of a plot to kill Lisa's VIP guest, and her influence at the hotel is vital to their success. Should she resist or alert the crew, her father will be killed.


After the recent crop of dumb and disappointing horror films (Darkness anyone?), it's refreshing to see a straight-up psychological thriller that displays even a semblance of realism. The voodoo filled bayous of The Skeleton Key may be creepy, but there's nothing more terrifying than a familiar situation turned into a nightmare, and Red Eye does its best to do just that.

The project certainly doesn't lack for talent. Wes Craven, one of the greatest horror directors of all time, is at the helm. His Scream franchise single-handedly resurrected (and re-invented) the teen slasher genre. He isn't quite on top form here (no doubt because he squeezed the project in between two other movies and a marriage), but he still knocks the spots off most of his competitors. In particular his distinctively fluid and expansive use of cameras (facilitated by veteran cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman) gives movement to what would otherwise be a very static setting.

Craven's job is made much easier by an exceptionally strong pair of lead actors. Rachel McAdams manages to maintain a combination of charming winsomeness and plucky determination throughout the proceedings, and gives a nuanced and very believable performance. It's hard to believe she was playing the bimbo in films like Mean Girls and The Hot Chick just a couple of years ago.

Cillian Murphy is equally good as the sociopathic Jackson, further refining the menacing screen presence he used to such good effect as Dr Jonathon Crane in Batman Begins. Though Murphy has perfected the steely gaze and intimidating rasp of a merciless killer, he can also be utterly charming. When he flirts with Lisa at the start you almost wish the film would turn into a romantic comedy, just so you could watch this pair of radiant charmers court each other a bit longer.

With this sort of talent on tap, and an intriguing and intelligent script, you might hope for a modern classic, or at least one of the best films of the year. Alas Red Eye is good, but not great. The main problem is that it is difficult, even for a director of Craven's stature, to maintain suspense in such a confined space. While the film's premise sounds claustrophobic and terrifying (and it is), it's hard to translate that interior terror from the victim to the audience. Trapped with a madman is one thing, but trapped sitting next to a madman in a situation where both of you are forced to behave normally removes the possibility of the unseen. And it's the unseen that makes the best psychological thrillers so effective - just look at the The Blair Witch Project or many of M. Knight Shyamalan's films.

This shortcoming is thrown into sharp relief when the action moves off the plane - a plot choice for which the young screenwriters should be commended. It's as though the film has let out its breath in a great gasp of cathartic action. Cars are crashed, buildings are blown up and Craven gets a chance to use one of the sequences of which he is such a master - the tried and trusted "killer stalking young heroine through the house" routine.

Still, while it doesn't make the most of its premise, Red Eye is certainly entertaining and is a cut above most things on circuit at the moment. At just 85 minutes long it has the good grace to get to the point and not flap around pretentiously. At the very least you should watch it to see two future mega-stars on the rise. If this showing is anything to go by, Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy will soon be household names.

- Alistair Fairweather

This compact and effective thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat, despite the fact that Wes Craven really doesn't make the most of its intriguing premise.

DEREK 2005/09/15 7:55 PM
Kathleen 2005/09/21 8:33 AM
Red Eye Very Good. Had us on the edge of the seat.
janie 2005/09/28 5:59 PM
Red eye Red eye Red eye
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