|Red Eye (2005)
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Jack Scalia
Director: Wes Craven
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
“Red Eye” is a surprisingly good thriller, placing the hapless victim in a very realistic scenario that offers little to no options for escape or even a cry for help. Its secret weapon is its use of time, wisely choosing not to test the patience of the audience and moving on to the next part of the story at all the right moments. The movie is rather short – 85 minutes, according to Fandango – but no one in the audience felt cheated, if the applause that came from the half-filled theater is any indication.
Rachel McAdams (“Wedding Crashers”) stars as Lisa Reisert, a workaholic hotel manager trying to get home after attending the funeral of her grandmother. She meets cute with a passenger named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy, Scarecrow from “Batman Begins”) and discovers to her delight that they’re seated next to each other when the long-delayed flight finally takes off.
Thoughts of fancy soon turn to utter dread, however, when Lisa realizes that Jackson knows far more about her than she thought. Jackson, in fact, is holding her hostage, threatening to kill her father Joe (Brian Cox) unless she uses her connections to facilitate the assassination of the Deputy of Homeland Security (Jack Scalia), who’s checking into her hotel in a few hours.
McAdams received significant face time in “Wedding Crashers,” but this movie is going to make her a star, undoubtedly cutting into the number of scripts Reese Witherspoon gets each week. Her Lisa is everything you can want and expect from a person in her position, emotional but resolved, terrified but furious. Most importantly, she doesn’t do anything colossally stupid, like most damsels in distress do. Her luck isn’t perfect – when I groaned at her tripping and falling at an inopportune moment, my wife said “Hey, she’s running in heels, you wouldn’t know” – but there is great satisfaction in watching someone do the things that the audience is telegraphing (or, in the case of the women behind me, shouting) to the character. Perhaps this should go as praise to the tight script from Carl Ellsworth and Don Foos, but you need a good actress to sell it. McAdams definitely sells it, and Wes Craven shoots it with a surgeon’s precision, hitting every beat and leaving nothing unresolved.
Murphy is so good, so calmly menacing as Jackson, that he’d be well served to stay the hell away from the role of the villain for at least 18 months. Between Jackson and Scarecrow, he’s staring down a lifetime as the James Spader archetype, a path that is bound to end in heartbreak. Also, one small quip with the story line: air phones play a significant role in the plot, even though I haven’t seen one of those on a plane in years, and I do my share of flying. Do they still exist? Also, was the name of the airline (trust us, it’s bad) supposed to be the joke that it actually is?
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from “Red Eye.” For starters, no one will ever complain about a movie being too short as long as they’re satisfied when the credits roll. Also, despite the embarrassing protests from the producers of “The Island,” who are blaming the actors for the poor showing of the movie (see Defamer.com for the skinny on that), it doesn’t take an A-list star to open a movie; it takes a good movie to open a movie. Lastly, expensive does not mean quality. You could make five “Red Eyes,” and a hundred penguin movies, for as much as it cost to make “Stealth.” There is something to be said for a movie that dares to live the cliché and work smarter, not harder.