Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy in Dreamworks' Red Eye - 2005
I don’t know whether it’s necessarily a good thing or not when you go to see a movie and the discussion that it prompts for the drive home is all about how to measure a film’s success based on what you could possibly expect from a “movie like that.” Here is typical post-theatrical conversation: “I liked it. (apologetic /defensive tone) Didn’t you like it?” “No, no, I thought it was good. I mean, good in comparison to, you know, those kinds of movies.” “Well, sure, I mean, it’s not winning any Oscars or anything, but for what it was, it was good. Right?”
Actually, horror auteur Wes Craven’s latest, Red Eye , is good. Rachel McAdams, of The Notebook-fame, plays harried hotel PR liaison Lisa Reisert. Her job is to make high profile clients happy, and she’s very good at her job. But when she is cornered by shadowy spook Jackson Rippner on a red-eye flight from Dallas to Miami, his request may be beyond even her skill. A trip that is usually no more than a major annoyance becomes a terrifying ride as Lisa, with nowhere to run, tries to outwit her captor, him dangling the life of her father as either payment or penance.
Fast paced, simple, and adequately acted, the film reaches only so far, and completely attains it’s goal. It’s just that, as a critic, you find yourself comparing other films you had a similar reaction to. I’m going to give this film a B. (Sorry to ruin the suspense) Now, does that mean it rates as an above average film, or simply an above average film in its genre? Can a merely good film in a traditionally lame genre be lauded as great by comparison? Or do truly great movies just shine through no matter what? I think it’s a little bit of both. For example, Animal House has come to be known as a classic of American comedy. Is it truly a great movie? No, for goodness sakes. It’s ridiculous - funny, but not superb. But of the gross-out fratboy comedies, Animal House is far and away the champ, so it just appears to be a great movie. On the other hand, two examples from typically tepid categories, talking animal movies and serial killer flicks, actually rose so far above the genre as to be nominated for Best Picture Oscars. One of them, Silence of the Lambs, even won. Babe was robbed. Red Eye is merely good, no matter that it is better than many of it’s ilk. But sometimes good is good enough.
I did have a few issues, and one is that there is life after the plane. I won’t tell you what or how, but I was disappointed the the filmmakers didn’t trust their cinematic device (trapped on a plane 30,000 feet up) to satisfy all of the story elements. I was hoping for something a little more Hitchcockian, or maybe Twilight Zone-y. But no, we are asked to follow the action beyond those confines, and the story loses something in the process. And then there are all of the story/continuity/believability/predictability issues that go along with “movies like this,” though it feel a little pointless to hash them all out. The movie is a simple story, and I liked that, but I was also hoping for just a little more in the way of a twist. Now, I know, twists have gotten way out of control, and done poorly, they can ruin a movie. But Red Eye is a just a little too straight-forward for my tastes.
Rachel McAdams and current it-Brit Cillian Murphy do fine in their respective roles, though I think Murphy could have been even creepier. As the Scarecrow, in Batman Begins, he is a lot scarier, and he has a much smaller part. But, on the whole, he was fine. Director Wes Craven seems to be merely treading water lately, but I guess that’s better than sinking. I feel like he’s got a truly great movie in him, just waiting to get out. This one was fun, but I’m sure he can do more. All in all, I was satisfied by this movie. Nothing to write home about, but I might even be tempted to watch it again, especially if I’m stuck on an overnight flight. Grade: B
Red Eye is rated PG-13 for violence and language.
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