*** (out of 5)
August 19, 2005
Rachel McAdams as LISA REISERT
Cillian Murphy as JACKSON RIPPNER
Brian Cox as JOE REISERT
Jayma Mays as CYNTHIA
Jack Scalia as CHARLES KEEFE
Directed by: Wes Craven
BY KEVIN CARR
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As a child of the 1980s, I have a soft spot in my heart for Wes Craven. He’s been a great influence on horror films throughout the years. His introduction of Freddy Krueger changed the face of the genre forever. Even his lesser-known film like “Shocker” and “The Serpent and the Rainbow” were a staple of my childhood. (I would rather forget movies like “Deadly Friend,” though. Seems like everyone else has.)
Craven was reinvigorated as a director in the 1990s when the “Scream” franchise brought teenage horror films back to the mainstream. But that was short lived. Recently, Craven gave us the lackluster “Cursed,” which really wasn’t that bad but much better as an R-rated film on DVD.
After “Cursed,” I was worried that Craven would disappear with his tail between his legs. Fortunately, he did not. Soon after “Cursed” took it in the shorts at the box office, I started seeing ads for “Red Eye,” a thriller that takes place almost entirely on a plane. At first, I thought this was a horror movie, being directed by Wes Craven and all. I expected some supernatural twist with the characters – at least that’s what the trailers made it look like.
However, it’s not a horror movie at all (which is a bit of a relief considering that most of the horror films that have been released this year have really stunk). Instead, it’s a psychological thriller. Maybe this is Craven’s attempt to go mainstream (although the 1999 flop “Music of the Heart” was his real attempt at the mainstream).
“Red Eye” tells the story of Lisa Reisert, a hotel customer service specialist who is traveling from Dallas to Miami after her grandmother’s funeral. During the long delays at the airport, she meets Jack (Cillian Murphy), a nice man who seems to have an uncanny knowledge of her. They end up seated next to each other on the red eye flight, but it isn’t a coincidence.
Jack soon reveals that she is to change a hotel reservation of the director of National Security, who will be at her hotel that weekend. If she doesn’t change the reservation, Jack will have his associate kill her father back in Miami. Lisa must try to save her father as well help prevent the assassination of the director of National Security.
The movie gets off to a good start. It really does. Even though you know what’s coming, it’s still a good ride to watch it all fit together. Craven pushes all the right buttons to get the audience to jump and yelp. It’s good, clean fun, although a bit unbelievable at times. You’re gonna have to choke down some pretty big bones If you want to swallow this film.
In the middle, things break down a little bit. Cillian Murphy is given too much charming dialogue in the beginning and too much smart-ass dialogue in the middle. It seems that Craven is still haunted a bit by the one-liners from his legendary Freddy Krueger character.
There’s also the full slate of cliches for suspense thriller – with everything from false scares to cell phone batteries running out just in time to drop that critical phone call. When all things come together in the end, the film delivers quite a punch. McAdams provides one of her best performances I’ve seen, managing to be both pretty and strong. In the past, she’s been set dressing, but she does a competent job carrying this film.
Cillian Murphy, who we last saw as the Scarecrow in “Batman Begins,” makes a formidable villain. He didn’t quite hit the mark perfectly, but this wasn’t his fault as much as the casting. However, the real rough acting comes in the supporting cast. It seemed that anyone getting paid a dayplayer rate had the same acting intensity as Paris Hilton in “House of Wax.”
Overall, “Red Eye” works as a thriller. It touches on the political thriller level, but steers clear of it most of the time. This is an advantage for the film, which is trying to live up to “The Interpreter,” but Wes Craven just doesn’t have the same flair as Sydney Pollack does.