Long-time horror maven Wes Craven tries his hand at Hitchcockian suspense in "Red-Eye," and turns in a modest B-movie thriller that's just as invigorating as it is easy to pick apart.
Earning its suspension of disbelief through keen performances and tight storytelling, the movie stars the talented Rachel McAdams ("Wedding Crashers," "Mean Girls") as a balls-in-the-air young manager of a luxury Florida hotel who is taking an overnight flight home from a trip. Standing in line to check in, she meets a handsome, friendly fellow (Cillian Murphy, "28 Days Later," "Batman Begins") and winds up sitting with him on the plane, making slightly awkward, slightly flirtatious small talk that actually keeps the film afloat for a good 20 minutes.
Once their flight is in the air, however, Murphy's charmingly evasive demeanor suddenly turns dark (as do his penetrating blue eyes) as he explains their encounter is no coincidence: A honcho from Homeland Security is about to check into her hotel, and if she doesn't keep quiet and help arrange an assassination, Murphy has a man outside her father's house ready to kill on his command.
If Craven allowed the time to apply much logical scrutiny to how the plot unfolds, "Red Eye" would collapse like a house of cards -- but by successfully enveloping the audience in his heroine's point-of-view, he doesn't even let you catch your breath. Logic is out the window and there are only two things on her mind: Save her father and stop the murder, neither of which prove easy, even after the plane lands and she manages, however briefly, to escape Murphy's clutches.
McAdams' mix of femininity, intelligence and vulnerability make a perfect foundation for the tension Craven builds around her as her character's resourcefulness begets hope, destruction and extreme danger while the film builds toward an exhilarating, roller-coaster climax.
"Red Eye" has many silly problems (if McAdam's hotel is hosting a major government figure, wouldn't there be someone higher-ranking than a ditzy desk clerk on duty?), and several larger gaffes (wouldn't the honcho's security detail have something to say about a suspicious change in his room arrangements?). In fact, the more thought you give it, the less its makes sense.
But Craven employs several little creative twists to keep your mind occupied (like cleverly establishing a few stock secondary characters, who then don't play the roles you assume they will) even when you're not experiencing McAdams' panic by proxy, and thanks to his skilled telling of a story that's not as smart as it seems, "Red Eye" is remains a snappy bit of popcorn-and-adrenaline entertainment.
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th August 2005
Box Office USA: $57.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $57.9M
Distributed by: Dreamworks
Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG, BenderSpink, Craven-Maddalena Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 147 Rotten: 39
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Rachel McAdams as Lisa Reisert, Cillian Murphy as Jackson Rippner, Brian Cox as Joe Reisert, Jayma Mays as Cynthia, Laura Johnson as Blonde Woman, Max Kasch as Headphone Kid, Angela Paton as Nice Lady, Suzie Plakson as Senior Flight Attendant, Jack Scalia as Charles Keefe, Robert Pine as Bob Taylor, Carl Gilliard as Taxi Driver, Mary Kathleen Gordon as Airline Representative, Loren Lester as Irate Passenger, Philip Pavel as Dallas Ticket Agent, Amber Mead as Dallas Ticket Agent, Dey Young as Dallas Gate Agent, Brittany Oaks as Rebecca, Jeanine Jackson as Passenger with Iced Mocha
Also starring: Kyle Gallner