Sunday 10 August 2014

Movie Review: Red Eye (2005)

A reasonably enjoyable action thriller that personalizes the danger posed by terrorists, Red Eye may be full of large plot holes but nevertheless offers up rousing entertainment.

Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is a proficient manager at the Lux Atlantic Hotel in Miami. After attending her grandmother's funeral in Dallas, she boards an overnight flight back to Miami. She finds herself seated next to a handsome man calling himself Jackson (Cillian Murphy) who had shared a drink with her at the airport prior to departure.

Soon after departure, Jackson quietly reveals himself to Lisa as a terrorist. He has associates waiting to kill Lisa's father Joe (Brian Cox) at his house in Miami unless Lisa cooperates. Jackson demands that Lisa use the plane's in-flight phone to call the Lux Atlantic and change the suite assigned to the United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, to place him in the kill zone of a terrorist plot. A terrified Lisa has to hold her nerve, delay making the call, and try to thwart the plot and save her father's life.

Directed by veteran horror master Wes Craven, Red Eye offers up a unique premise that is both it's success and failing. Confining most of the action to a single overnight plane ride creates a claustrophobic environment ripe for cranking up the psychological suspense, and hems Lisa into an effective "no where to run" scenario.

But even at the economical running length of 85 minutes, the Carl Ellsworth script is stretched to fraying as it prolongs the drama in the sky. The film needs to keep finding new ways to make sure that Lisa avoids fulfilling Jackson's demand, and after the first couple of sidesteps, the mind begins to wander towards questions such as why did Jackson not get his mission done while stalking Lisa on the ground, before the plane ever took off. It would have been helpful to spend a bit less time on the plane and bit more time fleshing out the terrorist plot, to provide some additional context to Jackson as a man and a mission.

The final 20 minutes, after the plane lands, are undeniably exciting as Lisa races to try and prevent a catastrophe, but they also turn Red Eye into a more conventional cat and mouse, hide and seek thriller. Lisa, pushed over that mythical edge that frequently exists in action movies, is transformed into an all-action heroine and leads Jackson on an extended chase, complete with old-school horror elements featuring the always popular "behind which door is the killer hiding" trope.

Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy both do well in what is essentially a two-person drama. McAdams is as ever irresistibly perky and likeable, and Murphy capitalizes on his almost too-good-to-be-true looks to prove that indeed, Jackson is no good.

Red Eye provides a compact shot of adrenaline that may not be perfect, but is enough to make any overnight trip an exhilarating blur.

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