Turbulent Red Eye flies to familiar territory
Whether it’s the shower in the Bates Motel or the coffin in The Serpent and the Rainbow, the best thrillers bring out the claustrophobe in all of us. It’s a no-brainer then that Red Eye should be a success ‘— a crowded airplane is one of the least maneuverable places the average person will ever find himself, and the idea of a captor so crafty he can pull off a quiet kidnapping at 30,000 feet is certainly intriguing.
So why isn’t Red Eye a better film? It goes wrong for a lot of reasons, but it’s still enjoyable thanks in large part to its short length and quick pacing.
Hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is taking an overnight flight from Dallas to Miami following her grandmother’s funeral. Afraid of flying, she is relieved to meet her seatmate, a handsome young man named Jackson (Cillian Murphy). Unbeknownst to Lisa, the charming flirt with the steely blue eyes has been spying on her for weeks, planning her unwilling aid in the assassination of a prominent Homeland Security official. Jackson keeps her quiet, assuring her that anything less than total cooperation will bring about the death of her father (Brian Cox), snoozing in his easy chair at home, unaware of the hit man parked outside his door.
McAdams and Murphy are both bright young talents ‘— she was the queen bee in last year’s Mean Girls, he the menacing Scarecrow in Batman Begins ‘— but somehow their chemistry seems off. McAdams’ delivery is too often wooden and unbelievable, and Murphy isn’t allowed to make his character into anyone memorable. Writer Carl Ellsworth’s awkward dialogue and lame jokes (Jackson’s last name is Ripner. Get it?) are to blame for this, though the film’s deficiencies would be easier to overlook if the plot didn’t steer so quickly away from its most interesting setting.
Red Eye would be much better if it remained on the plane, but it moves with great haste into director Wes Craven’s comfort zone, a by-the-numbers game of cat and mouse, which he unwisely sets in the suburban household of Lisa’s father. Never mind his earlier films ‘— hadn’t this dead horse been flogged enough by the third Scream movie? Beginning as a suspenseful (albeit hokey) film, it takes on an inappropriately light tone towards the end as it leads up to a shopworn Craven trademark, the same ‘“where’s the killer hiding?’” sequence he’s been phoning in for years. It’s hard to get very excited, since it’s obvious where he’s going: inevitably, a character you thought dead will come back to life; the heroine, running in fear, will trip and fall at the worst possible moment; the killer will be hiding in the most obvious corner; and the prey will ultimately get her revenge on the predator. You should never feel this safe in a film that’s supposed to be suspenseful.
Its wasted potential aside, Red Eye isn’t all that bad. The nimble pace makes the film completely watchable despite its flaws. Still, I can’t rid myself of the idea that it could’ve been something more, and it’s disappointing that it’s just another C-level thriller, better than Passenger 57, less entertaining than Air Force One. It might cause aviophobes some unease, but unless you have a preexisting fear of flying, Red Eye is about as scary as an in-flight meal.
Think this review caught the early flight to Sucksville? Check your baggage with Glen Baity via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org