Dir: Wes Craven. US.2005. 81mins.
Screen elitists arealways decrying the feckless over-complications of modern action movies, butWes Craven's air-bound Red Eye strikes a blow for old-fashionedentertainment, even as it unfolds against a decidedly contemporary setting. Athriller cast as a breathless nouveau labyrinth dash, the movie delivers solidgenre jolts in a tight, streamlined fashion.
Box office prospects for thefilm should be strong both domestically (where it opens on Aug 19) and abroad,as its contained setting is universally relatable. Its modest budget ($40m) andteen-friendly rating should also ensure sure-fire recoupment.
Pic will, however, be seenas a test of Rachel McAdams' burgeoning star power, especially coming on theheels of the enormous success of Wedding Crashers, in which sheco-stars.
Plot follows Lisa Reisert(McAdams), the director of customer service at an upscale Miami hotel. Thoughshe hates to fly, she's coming home from Texas on the titular late night flightin the wake of her grandmother's funeral.
Lisa's return coincides withthe arrival of controversial Director of Homeland Security Charles Keefe (JackScalia) and his family at her hotel, and it's this fact that fellow passengerJackson (Cillian Murphy) wants to discuss with Lisa. At first charming andcharismatic, Jackson morphs into a quietly hissing menace as soon as they're inthe air.
Using her father Joe (BrianCox) as an imperilled bargaining chip, Jackson tells Lisa that she must phoneco-worker Cynthia (Jayma Mays) and simply switch Keefe's hotel room, or anassociate waiting outside Joe's house will kill her father. Trapped at 30,000feet and between two terrible choices, Lisa must use her wits and limitedresources to frantically attempt to thwart her captor and try to stop severalmurders.
Scripted by debutscreenwriter Carl Ellsworth, Red Eye feels at times a bit slight, butit's so streamlined that it doesn't elicit much enmity. It attempts, insomewhat awkward fashion, to not so much play on fears of terrorism as delivera tweaked genre movie that takes place in a distinctly post-Sept. 11 world.
This means the script makessome bold choices, but the problem is then that the more rote and formulaicaspects of its narrative are cast into starker relief.
The middle 35 minutes of the81-minute running time take place on the plane, and prove fairly taut andinteresting. The build-up prior to that is somewhat clumsy, and once off theplane the movie diminishes from cat-and-mouse gamesmanship into less intriguingchase sequences of foregone conclusions. But the cool, whispery menace of thefilm's most effective passages, though, stays with you.
Working with cinematographerRobert Yeoman (Rushmore, and all of Wes Anderson's movies), Craven veryclearly plays Red Eye as his filmic homage to Alfred Hitchcock, tradingin tight close-ups and two-shots to play up the claustrophobia of Lisa'sdilemma, particularly in flight.
Early on, Murphy deliverssome of the smooth, chameleonic charm that had him in contention for the roleof Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's recent Batman remake, and McAdamstoo makes a convincing case for leading lady status.
Carl Ellsworth, from a story by Ellsworth and Dan Foos
Bruce Alan Miller