Lisa: Rachel McAdams
Jack: Cillian Murphy
Cynthia: Jayma Mays
Dad: Brian Cox
DreamWorks SKG presents a film directed by Wes Craven. Written by Carl Ellsworth and Dan Foos. Running time: 85 min. Rated PG-13 (for some intense sequences of violence, and language).
Red Eye is a good solid thriller. It doesn’t offer anything new to the cinematic world, but it never gets tired. With a running time of 85 minutes, it has a quick pace and only concentrates on the vitals of the story, which is exactly as it should be. It has some shocking moments and a solid, albeit sparse cast. It may not be a movie you need to run out to see, but if you’re in the mood for a good old fashioned Hollywood thrill ride it does not disappoint.
Rachel McAdams stars as Lisa, a career focused manager of a high class Miami hotel, on the way home from her grandmother’s funeral in Texas. She meets a charming stranger named Jack, who through a series of seeming coincidences finds opportunity to warm up to this woman who seems to avoid personal relationships. The two find themselves sitting next to each other on the red eye flight back to Miami. Is it kismet, or something more sinister?
To pretend this is anything but a thriller would be needlessly misleading. Jack’s intentions are sinister and director Wes Craven’s heavy hand doesn’t seem interested in keeping this a secret; but that’s okay because the thrills are what the audience bought their tickets for. Jack works for an unnamed employer who has hired him to arrange for a big time financial figure to be in a certain room of Lisa’s hotel the next morning. Asking him for financial advice is not what this employer has in mind. In order to arrange this Jack is holding Lisa’s father’s life at stake. Lisa is the only hotel manager with the security clearance to arrange the room change.
Of course, the airplane cabin is a favorite film location for suspense, no wonder no real airlines allow their planes to be seen in these types of films. Craven (Scream trilogy) utilizes the claustrophobic space well, as Lisa is trapped on the window side with the knowledge that if she does anything to alter Jack’s plans, a man sitting outside her father’s house will kill him. After two attempts to let others on the plane know that something is terribly wrong with the man sitting next to her, screenwriter Carl Ellsworth (of syndicated TV shows like Cleopatra 2525) does a good job making it seem as if any more options she tries will only lead to her father’s assassination.
The film is grounded in McAdams’s performance. With this film and last summer’s sleeper romance The Notebook, she has successfully graduated from the prom queen witch with a “b” roles that dominated her early career in films like Mean Girls and The Hot Chick. Because of the nature of this film, it may not be a star making turn, but it proves she can carry a movie.
Cillian Murphy, as Jack, may be typing himself for American audiences as an all-out heavy considering this film and his other summer performance as The Scarecrow in Batman Begins, but he carries the menace well. With a boyish face that seems likeable, his full lips and large eyes give just a hint of something off-kilter, and those steely blues can be deadly. The casting is such an important element in a film that hangs so dependently on only two primary performers, and Craven gets it as close to perfection as is possible here.
It is also nice to see Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy) get a turn as a nice guy playing Lisa’s dad. This gifted actor gives dad that slightly odd ball feel that all us twenty and thirtysomethings see in our own parents’ behavior that convinces us they are just about to go off the deep end. And what a discovery Craven makes with newcomer Jayma Mays as Cynthia; Lisa’s fill-in manager while she’s out of town, who gets to deal with a less than typical night from hell in the hotel business. She’s one of those nice girls who gets to run around in panic as if someone has wrapped her legs in elastic, but she does it with such comedic grace that it would be hard not to fall in love with her for it.
This isn’t a perfect movie, there are times where the writer and director try hard enough to shock the audience that the puppet strings are visible, but the whole story is so tightly paced and so focused on getting to the point that it hardly matters. There is nothing extraneous in this film. The man who hires Jack is never revealed, nor are his reasons because they don’t matter to our heroine. Her only concern is for her father’s life and the lives of the people Jack would have her set up for execution. For the audience, only these two characters matter, whose lives are brought together for a singular purpose, to provide a thrill ride that requires only a little suspension of disbelief and a desire for some thrills in a darkened movie theater.