Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rachel McAdams, Brian Cox
Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence, and language.
Parental Notes: This is a solid PG-13 thriller with action, suspense, and good-looking leads. There’s some violence, and while it’s not especially graphic, it is rather creepy in spots. “Red Eye” is probably fine for teens and mature preteens.
“Red Eye” suffers from the same issues as a great many films: its premise is almost unutterably stupid. If you set the premise aside, it’s fairly good. It has decent acting, a strong heroine, and some good jokes to ease the tension from the main plotline — but these aren’t enough to overcome the ludicrous setup. Overall, whether you’ll enjoy the film depends largely on whether you can accept the premise as believable, or at least ignore its implausibility.
The film revolves around two people: Lisa (Rachel McAdams) and Jackson (Cillian Murphy). Lisa works as a manager at a prestigious hotel in Miami, and has been away attending a sudden funeral. On her way back, she meets Jackson, who seems charming at first but soon reveals that he needs her to change a guest’s hotel room at her hotel for nefarious reasons. He further informs her that he has an agent standing by to kill her father if she refuses. The rest of the film is taken up with her attempts to foil his dastardly plan.
There is one immediately obvious flaw in this: how is it possible that Lisa is the only one with enough authority to make this change? Furthermore, once we see the nefarious plan in action, it becomes obvious that it would have been just as easy to carry out with the original room assignment. Well, and her father could foil the entire plan by looking out his window, noting the creepy guy in the car across the street, and calling the cops. But then, of course, there wouldn’t be much of a movie.
“Red Eye” benefits greatly from its central actors. Murphy is phenomenally creepy as Jackson and McAdams displays plenty of spunk (eventually) as Lisa. Unfortunately, the screenwriters apparently felt it necessary to make sure we were aware that Jackson is really, really evil, so he spouts some very Snidely-Whiplash-style dialogue between sequences where he is genuinely threatening. Still, Murphy makes good use of his icy blue eyes and boyish handsomeness (given a more mature look with some stubble) and although at times his dialog is ludicrous, he never stops exuding menace once he gets going.
Lisa is a welcome surprise in this genre: a woman who starts out in stereotypical “terrified, weeping female” mode but manages to realistically shift gears and start creatively trying to outwit her enemy. The realism comes from a bit of exposition about two-thirds of the way through the film when she tells Jackson a little about her history to try and get him off his guard. It’s refreshing to see a woman fighting back competently, though frustrating that coup-de-grace is given to another, male character.
Although the story is based on inanity, Lisa’s attempts to save the day are actually very clever. Ranging from hidden messages to a well-timed sneak attack, they are solid things that a regular person might think of if they were moderately intelligent. She also has a great deal of courage once she gets over her initial terror, and that in and of itself is a pleasure to see. Guys get to hog so much of the glory in action/thriller films that it’s great to watch a woman do something other than die to provide motivation for the hero.
There’s humor to lighten the mood (although, admittedly, some appears unintentional), and overall “Red Eye” is fairly entertaining. However, it is not especially well-crafted and the plot holes will be frustrating to connoisseurs of excellent action/suspense films like “The Fugitive.”