directed by Wes Craven
starring Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy
Last month, I saw a brief trailer for a new summer film, Red Eye. All the clip revealed was Cillian Murphy (last seen in Batman Begins as the Scarecrow) giving The Wedding Crashers‘ Rachel McAdams the evil eye while sitting next to her on an airliner.
Wow, I think. Is Murphy playing a vampire, the Grim Reaper, Satan? Is this going to resemble Airport ’77 meets The Omen? I wanted to find out. Given that it was a Wes Craven flick starring one scary son of a bitch and an impossibly pretty actress, I was sold.
Had I seen the commercial that’s been airing for the past week, I would have never had gone — and I would have missed a pleasant surprise.
You’ve probably seen the TV ad, where Murphy frightens and then chases McAdams until she collects her wits and turns the tables; Red Eye appears to be your run-of-the-mill action thriller. The clip is one of those trailers in which the whole film’s plot and action sequences flash before your eyes, so one really doesn’t have to pay to see the highlights.
I hate those commercials. Unfortunately, the only good “teaser” trailers you see close to opening Friday are for movies that have something to hide, like really bad acting.
The most appealing aspect of Red Eye is that it’s not as run-of-the-mill as it’s being depicted on TV. Sure, the plot is borrowed – from such classics as Suddenly and Desperate Hours (not the Mickey Rourke remake), but director Craven, obviously influenced by Hitchcock, has made a wholly enjoyable, occasionally unpredictable film that is a complete departure from his horror resume.
McAdams plays Lisa, an overworked senior manager of an upscale Florida hotel who’s flying home on a red eye flight. While she waits for her delayed plane, Lisa keeps bumping to fellow passenger Jackson (Murphy), a charming and seemingly harmless fellow. When she finds her assigned seat is right next to his, she just chalks it up to happy coincidence; after all, the workaholic has had little time for romance.
However, there are no coincidences in this film. Sadly, Jackson isn’t one of the Devil’s minions; he’s merely a hell-bent agent of some unnamed terrorist organization with plans to rub out a Homeland Security czar (Jack Scalia) at Lisa’s hotel. With one eye on his watch, Jackson’s job is to convince Lisa to make a very important phone call from the plane.
As his target soon finds out, a trained assassin can be very persuasive.
While McAdams will never win an Oscar, she’s not a bad actress. The wholesome star of The Notebook is a natural pick for a damsel in distress; however, Lisa’s convincing transformation from weepy would-be victim to desperate ass-kicker required some talent, and McAdams has good on-screen chemistry with her co-star.
When it comes to playing evil, sick men, few in Hollywood (besides Christopher Walken, of course) can out-creep young Murphy, whom I suspect has not even approached his peak as an actor; he makes this role seem like an effortless, one-day bit part. I have no idea what Murphy is like in real life, but onscreen, he can be very unsettling.
Murphy’s performance as the Scarecrow reminded me of someone; days later, I remembered that it was this old classmate of mine. There was something not quite right with this kid, something you couldn’t quite put your finger on. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that this goofy bastard tortured small animals, or built bombs in his basement. Hell, I’d go to my high school reunion just to find out which state had him on its death row. Murphy has this odd kid’s strange eyes, as well as his mannerisms.
But I digress. With a running time of under 90 minutes, Red Eye doesn’t waste a frame of film. Craven’s direction is tight, and the story red-lines the suspense meter early on; to his credit, the tension stays high until the end.
Without revealing the movie’s key moments, it’s safe to say that Red Eye is chock-full of clichéd scenes and scenarios. However, Craven has somehow perfected, even reinvented them; instead of prodding viewers to laughingly recall another cat-and-mouse flick, he puts them at seat’s edge.
With inspired directing, a nail-biter script and good acting, Red Eye proves that not everything is as it seems…at least not in a 30-second commercial.
Red Eye the Movie: www.redeye-themovie.com