“Red Eye” made mine glaze overHorror master Wes Craven cobbles together elements from political thrillers for the uncharacteristically dull “Red Eye” (in Korea, titled “Night Flight”), a film about a plot to assassinate the American Secretary of Homeland Security (Jack Scalia).
“Red Eye” is one of Craven’s most theatrical films yet, in that most of it takes place on a single set, inside an aircraft. Contrary to what is implied by the trailer, there is nothing supernatural or even particuarly weird in the film. The battle this time is purely psychological.
Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is a high strung manager at a big Miami hotel, the Lux Atlantic, which is hosting Homeland Security Secretary Keefe. When she leaves for her grandmother’s funeral in Texas, fellow employee Cynthia (Jayma Mays) is at her wit’s end trying to handle arrangements for the VIP.
Lisa’s flight back to Miami is delayed, which gives her a chance to meet Jackson (Cillian Murphy), who helps her quiet down an irate passenger and then takes her out for airport cocktails. They later discover (surprise!) that they happen to be seated together on the flight. Although he seems like a nice guy to Lisa, in some heavy-handed foreshadowing, Jackson jokes about his last name, Rippner.
As soon as the plane leaves the ground, Lisa discovers that Rippner is holding her father (Brian Cox) hostage. Rippner demands that she call the hotel to switch the homeland security secretary into another room, where could be easily assasinated by a missile fired from a boat. Lisa must choose between aiding in Ripner’s dastardly plot or letting her father die.
The psychological drama is exploited well by the film’s two stars. McAdams convincingly portrays a frightened but collected problem-solver, and Murphy is naturally creepy. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough material here to make the film as enthralling as it should be.
The potential victims, Lisa’s father and the homeland security secretary and his family, are sparsely sketched and don’t drive up the stakes very high. Lisa’s attempts to communicate her plight to other passengers are predictably quashed. Revelations about her past and her heroic actions at the climax provide only minimum excitement.
There are thrillers that can take a limited set and build a suspenseful, claustrophobic atmosphere out of sheer psychological force. The recent “Open Water” springs to mind. But these films are usually the product of independent filmmakers whose creativity is necessitated by a mother of a low budget. In contrast, “Red Eye” smacks of a Hollywood studio leaning on name recognition instead of craftsmanship to make a quick buck.
“Red Eye” would be a good movie to watch in the dark on a Sunday night at 3 a.m. on cable, but it seems almost trivial on the big screen. This may be the fault of the screenwriter, Carl Ellsworth, whose past credits are limited to kids’ shows and one episode each of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.” A weak story, flat characters and an unfortunate lack of vampires or nutty hockey players dooms “Red Eye” to inspire the worst possible emotion a thriller can evoke: boredom.
Red Eye (Night Flight)
Drama, Thriller / English
by Ben Applegate
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