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Red Eye

When the teaser trailer for this film first ran in theaters, it featured a laugh inducing hook that hinted at the supernatural. Tie this to the name Wes Craven, and you have the makings of a rather dull slasher film. Boring beyond words, no? I recall giggling in my seat, elbowing the viewer next to me while pointing at the screen as Cillian Murphy’s eyes turned to red, a backfired attempt to send a chill down the spines of the audience.

Instead, the wrong message was sent as the sequence seemed to imply that Murphy’s character was, perhaps, either the devil or the grim reaper or…ahhh, who cares, right? Why waste precious real estate discussing any of this at all?

Wrong. When the actual trailer finally rolled into cineplexes, all preconceived notions regarding this film were turned on their ear. All thoughts of the supernatural evaporated as it occurred to me that Craven may have actually gone in a different direction altogether. Either way, the film didn’t look like it would be worth the time spent screening it, and this film, surprisingly, proved me wrong.

Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is a workaholic. She pines away each day working extra hours and pouring her youthful exuberance into her job, managing what we are told is the classiest hotel in the Miami area. When we meet her, she is rushing to catch a flight home from a funeral in Texas. We learn that her parents are divorced, her grandmother recently passed away, and if it weren’t for a family tragedy, Lisa would never have touched her vacation hours.

Craven handles these scenes deftly, treating them as natural occurrences in real peoples’ lives. Her phone conversation with her assistant Cynthia (Jayma Mays) plays out in procedural fashion. Rather than rushing the details, Craven plays them straight, walking us through the day to day life as a hotel manager. We watch as Lisa takes the time to walk Cynthia through the steps of remedying a customer issue despite running late to catch her flight home. After all, if her character wouldn’t rush through something that means this much to her, why should Craven?

His treatment of flight delays is treated in a similar fashion. Line after line is followed by hours of waiting in terminals, and as Craven obviously truncates the waiting time, he takes care to make his cuts subtle enough to avoid calling attention to the passage of time. When Lisa meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), he comes to her defense in a long line after an Irate Passenger (Loren Lester) chews out the Ticket Agent (Paulina Hunter), causing Lisa to revert into “manager-mode.”

Jackson is smooth and calm, flirtatious and amicable. He says the right thing to side with Lisa’s defense of the poor Ticket Agent, and quickly asks Lisa to dinner in a slyly coy fashion.

Lisa is guarded, and her past seems to hide a deeper cause for this than merely her parents' divorce and the recent death in the family. After a woman errantly douses Lisa with her iced coffee, we learn that she keeps hidden a gnarly scar above her chest, and the mystery behind Lisa’s complex nature deepens because of it.

As the trailer denotes, Lisa opts to dine with Jackson, and she later meets up with him on the plane where, as it would seem fate would have it, they wind up seated next to one another. They politely flirt and coyly dance around one another’s advances until the plane lifts off, at which point Jackson’s demeanor seems to shift focus to her father. Lisa assumes that he is, once again, acting out of nobility by distracting her from her fears of flying, but Jackson is quick to point out the error of her assumption.

He is on business, and as it would happen, his business pertains to Lisa. There it is, the exact same sequence from the teaser without the “red eye” effect, yet Cillian’s delivery is sharp and creepy enough to cut through the façade and send chills down your spine in one fell swoop.

Red Eye is a tightly wound thriller that accomplishes more than it likely set out to initially. It is not simply a hostage on a plane film, nor is it a simple woman in danger conceit. Craven manages to re-introduce the hostage scenario in a poignant, engaging, and downright captivating fashion. What truly shocks is that he accomplishes all of this in a mere hour and twenty-five minutes.

Filmgoers may not be inclined to give Red Eye a chance this weekend, but it would be a mistake not to consider it. Red Eye marks a return to simple, concise storytelling, and remains proof positive that Craven still has something to offer audiences. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a fun ride and well worth a look.


Mario Anima

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