Red Eye Review
Don't Say A Word, Panic Room, Phone Booth, Collateral, Cellular, Hostage and now Red Eye. The revival of the good, old-fashioned suspense thriller is one of the most welcome trends to come out of Hollywood recently, along with the unexpected boom in good comedy films. Suspense movies work on a primal level that quick-fix special effects blockbusters can't reach. Seeing an innocent person placed in jeopardy connects with us all. We can't help but be involved. That's why Hitchcock, the director who so enjoyed playing the audience like a piano, loved the genre so much.
On a more contemporary note, it's also why 24 has become one of the most popular shows on television. A bold experiment in sustaining tension over an entire season of 24 episodes, its success is well deserved. The first two seasons shame just about every action movie Hollywood has produced this decade. 24's popularity is probably the biggest reason for the current suspense revival. Red Eye, along with Cellular and Hostage, owes much to 24's approach, which is to place the hero at the centre of a conspiracy, keep the pace frantic and throw in everything but the kitchen sink to keep us on the edge of our seats. Red Eye does this with skill and panache.
The innocent in jeopardy is Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), a successful Miami hotel manager who's been back home to Dallas for her grandmother's funeral and to visit her father (Brian Cox). Now she's on her way back to Florida on the last night flight available - the "red eye" of the title. While waiting for the plane, Lisa meets a handsome young man named Jack (Cillian Murphy) who charms her into sharing a drink in the terminal. When Lisa's flight is called, they part and she doesn't expect to see him again.
Surprise! As she's getting settled in her window seat, guess who appears and just happens to have booked the aisle seat next to her. Yes, it's Jack and his motives for wanting to be with her are not the ones she suspects. Before the flight has reached its cruising altitude, Lisa has become trapped in a nightmarish situation with nowhere to run and no one to turn to.
Red Eye is nothing if not topical. Its tension is rooted in the greatest fear of our time - terror in the air. This isn't a straightforward terrorist thriller like Executive Decision however. It's simpler, more intimate, less overtly political. It also has a nice line in black humour. Writer Carl Ellsworth has done a neat job of turning a hot-button issue into entertainment without breaking the taste barrier.
The director is horror veteran Wes Craven, who's making his first mainstream thriller, although he's already proved his suspense skills with the Scream series. This has been a good move for him. Red Eye is an impressive return to form after the repetition of Scream 3 and Cursed. Craven seems re-invigorated by the change of pace and the result is a rare, modern example of a tight, fast-paced B-movie. It clocks in at a very brisk 85 minutes - there isn't an ounce of padding on it.
Despite a couple of nice supporting turns by reliable old Brian Cox and newcomer Jayma Mays (as Lisa's assistant), the film is largely a two-hander. Young stars Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy dominate the screen for much of the running time. McAdams, who rose to fame playing a high school bitch in Mean Girls, has turned out to be a very likeable actress and here she puts us in her corner right from the beginning. Irish actor Cillian Murphy from 28 Days Later is equally effective. The story takes some wild turns in the last half hour and might have gone off the rails in other hands but the stars play it all with such conviction that we go along for the ride.