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Red Eye (2005) Print E-mail
Friday, 19 August 2005
This year, 2005, may someday be known as the year that Rachel McAdams became a star. She received notice for “The Notebook” last year but more for this year’s “Wedding Crashers.” And now she and Cillian Murphy are really the only two stars of “Red Eye,” and they’re both terrific. The movie is a tight-knit, exciting suspense thriller that may be a little short on believability, but will please audiences anyway. It’s directed by horror master Wes Craven; it’s one of his best movies, even though it’s not horror. Scary, yes. But not horror.

In a brief, puzzling scene we see someone swipe the wallet of Joe Reisert (Brian Cox) and examine the contents. Then we meet Lisa (Rachel McAdams), hurrying to a Texas airport for a late (red eye) flight to Miami. She’s on her cell phone, trying to deal with the crisis facing nervous Cynthia (Jayma Mays) at the luxurious Miami hotel where they both work. Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), a controversial higher-up in Homeland Security is on the way to the hotel with his family. Lisa is head of security, and very good at her job, as we see.

At the airport, though, she’s stuck in the same complicated lines we all are these days, plus there are delays. Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), also in the line, helps her with a difficulty, and later shares a drink with her at the bar. So she’s surprised when she boards her flight to find Rippner is her seat mate. Surprised, but not disappointed; she’s slightly attracted to him.
At least until he tells her that unless she cooperates, his partner will kill her father, Joe Reisert.

The partner is waiting outside Joe’s Miami home, keeping an eye on the older man. Rippner is working for some shadowy international organization that’s bent on assassinating Keefe; Rippner wants her to move Keefe’s reservation from a lower floor to a higher one to make him easier to kill. If she doesn’t help, well, Rippner’s partner has this great big knife….

The script by newcomer Carl Ellsworth is extremely efficient, all t’s crossed, all I’s dotted. There’s an old theatrical saying that if you hang a gun on the wall in the first act, you have to fire it before the end of the third: that is, don’t add elements you don’t intend to develop later. Everything Ellsworth adds—a little girl traveling alone, a friendly old lady, a couple of college age jerks, that knife, etc.—pays off by the end of the movie, very neatly and efficiently.

Also Lisa is presented as an extremely resourceful and intelligent person, and McAdams is so expressive that we can see each idea reflected in her face as it occurs to her. She tries everything: refusing to make the call, trying a trick with the phone, passing a message to someone else, writing a message on the restroom mirror, but Rippner trumps her every move. This is not one of those movies where you’re way ahead of the story; Craven carefully develops things so that everything a normal person might consider as an option is dealt with. This cranks up the suspense.
When the plane finally lands, Lisa makes a bold, swift action and flees from Rippner at the airport, then steals a car, then…. The movie features at least one enormous explosion and a fight to the death in a house undergoing remodeling.

As with many suspense films, “Red Eye” tends to lose credibility as events escalate, but it’s so well done that you’re not likely to have any second thoughts until after the movie is over.

Craven isn’t quite so adept with Cillian Murphy, who strikes a few poses and flashes his piercing blue eyes that suggest there’s something wrong here well before the story reveals the dark truth about him. Murphy himself is excellent, something like a latter-day Anthony Perkins crossed with Johnny Depp. He’s slender and graceful, but his handsome face has sharp corners, and he can suggest determination, even obsession, with ease. He does it here and as the Scarecrow in “Batman Begins.” However, he was equally convincing as a hero in “28 Days Later.” He and McAdams both seem likely to have long, busy movie careers.

But she’s likely to be the bigger star. She’s one of those people the camera seems to love; she’s very appealing, sexy in a modest way, and an intensely focused actress who, almost contradictorily, generally seems relaxed and comfortable on screen. She has an unusual nose—legitimately upturned and pug—but it harmonizes with her features. She’s really the main star here, and effortlessly holds our interest and intention.

For most of the movie, Craven is confined to a detailed airplane interior Cinematographer Robert Yeoman usually works on independent films, and has shot all of Wes Anderson’s films so far; he also shot Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy.” Here, he uses gliding cameras on cranes to glide swiftly over rows of seats into closeups. It’s not experimental in any way, but, like the rest of the movie, very solid professional work.

“Red Eye” arrives late in the summer, but is one of the most entertaining movies of 2005. Craven selected his goals carefully and fulfills every one of them. It’s not a major movie, really, but it’s unusually satisfying—and lots of fun to watch.

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