Thursday, June 30, 2016

Catching the Red Eye

Sometimes I find myself in the mood for a short movie not likely to demand intense concentration. That's how I recently wound up watching the 2005 thriller Red Eye. It centers on a hotel manager trapped on a cross-country flight as a man tries to coerce her into aiding a political assassination.

I didn't quite pluck the movie out of the blue; there were a couple of things about it that stirred my curiosity. One was whether it would be able to wring much of a narrative out of the inherently limited premise of being trapped on an airplane. The answer turned out to be "yes and no." The movie opens before takeoff, and spends a fair amount of time setting up characters before reaching the core conceit. And then -- at the risk of being a bit spoilery here -- the final act unfolds after the flight arrives at its destination, allowing for other scenarios to play out. The flight itself occupies only perhaps half the movie, and the movie's short run time means that the gimmick isn't drawn out past its expiration.

The other main point of interest to me was the movie's director, Wes Craven. This is the man who defined and redefined horror/thriller conventions again and again throughout a long career. I was curious to see what he'd done here, particularly since Red Eye came after he'd made the (first three) Scream movies and partially skewered some of his own techniques in doing so. Here, Craven keeps the tension drawn taut as the movie speeds along.

That said, there really isn't much room to play within this limited gimmick. And Wes Craven doesn't really pull any previously unknown tricks out of his hat. This is a case of a script and director proceeding rather workmanlike through all the expected beats. Nothing about the movie is truly harrowing (unless you're afraid of flying, I suppose), nor is anything about it truly surprising.

Rachel McAdams is at times compelling as the lead character, the terrorized Lisa. But the final act undermines some of her self-reliance and defiance, running her through some of the genre's more disheartening damsel-in-distress beats. Cillian Murphy is serviceable as the villainous Jackson Rippner (get it?), but it feels like the movie relies more on his unconventional appearance to convey "creepy" than on any particular aspect of his performance.

Overall, you could do worse with your movie choice, particularly in the often-schlocky horror/thriller genre. But I'd still say this movie merits a C+ at best. The odds are good that if you're the sort of person who would enjoy this movie, you've probably already seen it at some point in the 11 years since it was released.

No comments: