AN UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING!
Accomplishing a successful thriller is not an easy thing to do. You’ve got to have a good script, great acting, a threatening atmosphere, and adequate directing. Pulling off a good psychological thriller is even tougher, most of the aforementioned items needing to be ratcheted up a few notches. The standard by which I use to gauge these types of films is (no surprise) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Perfect in every way, this film is a top-shelf example of the genre.
Director Wes Craven is better known for his slasher-thrillers (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM, etc.), but here he’s taking a shot at something a bit less bloody. And while RED EYE succeeds on a few levels, it fails miserably in several others.
The story. Lisa (Rachel McAdams, THE FAMILY STONE) is flying from L.A. to Miami and is about to meet up with a psychopath, Jackson (Cillian Murphy, BATMAN BEGINS). Their first meeting is in the airport prior to boarding and it appears as if a romance is blooming between the two. But once aboard the Red Eye flight, Jackson quickly reveals his true scheme for getting so close to Lisa. Lisa is the manager of a high-profile Hotel in Miami and many politically active people stay there. One of these people must die, according to Jackson and whomever he represents. Jackson also has an ace up his sleeve: he’s got a man with a gun sitting outside Lisa’s father’s house and if this politician doesn’t die, Lisa’s father will. So Jackson orders Lisa to move this political figure to another room, one with a more exposed balcony. Lisa calls the hotel (while they’re in the air) and orders the room switch. But what will become of the politicians family? And Lisa’s father?
The good. Compartmentalizing the story in an airplane was genius. This forced close-up shots of the actors in this constrained environment and leant an explosive atmosphere to the movie. You could feel Rachel McAdams’ character wanting to burst free of the plane. Cillian Murphy is just flat-out creepy. He can play the bad guy extremely well and I hated his character (that’s a good thing).
The bad. Once they leave the plane, the story gets a bit silly. We lose the compartmentalization feel and get into the standard chase scenes which were pretty weak. There are also side stories which we briefly glance but are never given insights to. The one that leaps out at me is the little girl flying alone for the first time. What was her purpose in the movie? I also thought the older lady that Lisa gives her book to was a bit forced. To ramp up the excitement, I would’ve liked to have seen Jackson kill the old gal on the plane then try to hide it. And, again, after we leave the plane, the story devolves into a standard storyline that is completely predictable. Does Lisa’s dad survive? Does Lisa? Do the politician and his family get away without being assassinated? Will Jackson get away with his plan? If you know predictable films, you know the answers to all of these without ever watching RED EYE.
Finally, let me say that Mr. Craven needs to stick to his chosen genre and not try and branch out like this unless he’s willing to go all the way. And by all the way, I mean give us a story that we don’t already know the ending to.