Red Eye

Director    Wes Craven
Starring    Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox
3 stars


11th September 2005

It sounds terrible I know, but I only really know Wes Craven from Scream and the subsequent sequels - back when Freddy was terrorising attractive youths in the 80's I was but a nipper, and all I saw of Elm Street was viewed through the crack of my older brother's bedroom door. His name might be mentioned in tones of hushed awe amongst many of you, but to me, he's just the guy who really wanted many sexy teens to die in a highly ironic fashion. What I do know, however, is that for a guy who's seemingly obsessed with the rules of moviemaking, it's odd that his latest movie should end up being quite so formulaic.

Red Eye is not a complicated movie to get your head around. Hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) bumps into charming fellow passenger Jack (Cillian Murphy) during the wait for the delayed Red Eye flight to Miami. He's everything you hope for in a flight-mate; debonair, dashing, talkative and polite - compared to the human Snickers machine that you end up sitting next to every flight, he's just what you'd need to make the journey bearable. Only problem is, he's a hired killer, out to use Lisa's hotel contacts to move an important government figure into a room more easily targeted by his Miami-based assassin buddies. If she screams, makes a wrong move or tries to escape, Jack makes a phone call and has her father (Brian Cox) killed on the spot. Perhaps Mount Snickers would have made for a better flight companion after all.

So, it's your standard thriller set-up - claustrophobic setting, calculated killer and unwitting heroine in danger, all boxes checked here. Thankfully, Red Eye rips along at a fair old pace, leaving little to no room for any unnecessary characters or events, wasting no time in getting to the meat of the story. It's a lean beast and tightly plotted, though perhaps a little too light-fingered in borrowing elements from other similar aviation-fixated thrillers like Passenger 57. Unfortunately, due to the pleasingly brief 90 minute-odd running time, there's little time to invest in the main characters themselves. Murphy does his best to create a calm-yet-threatening persona for his sinister character (even if by the end he looks like a disgruntled dandy, complete with neckerchief - it'd be like being chased by a particularly angry, modern-day Dick Turpin) but McAdams struggles to break free from the typical Craven 'feisty female' mould. It's probably no coincidence that she shares more than a passing resemblance to Neve Campbell.

Red Eye definitely has a sound central concept, but the director can't resist reverting to what he does best, which is unfortunate, as that means retreading depressingly familiar ground. While the action is contained in mid-air, Red Eye remains a taut, enjoyable thriller. When the plane lands and Craven moves proceedings to terra firma, the cabin pressure drops rapidly and the safety routine kicks in. Cillian Murphy, who up until this point has been the model assassin, turns into the trademark inept attacker, stumbling blindly over chairs and into doors as he lamely pursues McAdams through her family home. What sinister hitman worth his salt would pick up a knife over a gun anyway? A badly written one? There's no twist or final act revelation here - the ending really is as crappy as you think it's going to be. Randy from Scream would be doing his nut at this point, were he not dead.

So, in conclusion, Red Eye is never in danger of crashing and burning, but it's not without its fair share of turbulence. With a captain like Craven in the cockpit you'd hope for a smoother landing - you definitely won't feel the need to reach for the sick bag, but you'd be well advised to peruse an in-flight magazine while the cabin crew go through the motions one more time. And that's all the plane-related japery you'll get from me this evening.

More:  Horror  Thriller
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