Red Eye

Red Eye


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Wes Craven first gained public notoriety when he adapted Swedish arthouse maestro Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960) into an uncompromisingly brutal rape-revenger called The Last House On The Left (1972) and in every decade since has shown a canny ability to be one step ahead of trends in horror cinema. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) introduced an articulate and witty killer to a market otherwise saturated with masked mutterers, and New Nightmare (1994), followed by Scream (1996), injected just the right dose of knowing postmodernism to revive a moribund genre. Yet Craven, by now a living legend, whose name alone is enough to draw an audience, has recently undergone a descent from industry innovator to director-for-hire. His werewolf pastiche Cursed (2005) was a pretty lazy affair and now Red Eye, a mid-air thriller, sees the director not so much soaring to the heavens as merely coasting along on auto-pilot.

Scarred hotelier Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is on a crowded overnight flight, en route to visit her retired father (Brian Cox), and, as if the airline food, limited foot room, stormy turbulence and screaming kids were not bad enough, she finds herself seated next to Jackson (Cillian Murphy), a smooth-talking killer who wants her to facilitate the assassination of a political VIP (Jack Scalia), and will give the word for her father to be murdered if she refuses to co-operate. Cue moral dilemmas and (literally) high tensions, as Lisa struggles to outwit her tormentor in one of the most confined spaces imaginable and then to outrun him back down on the ground.

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Exploiting the nervy claustrophobia familiar to anyone who has ever travelled by air, Red Eye is nothing but competent, but also nothing much more. The acting might almost be called first-class, but the two lead characters' brisk professionalism makes them seem as blankly anonymous as the collection of stereotypes surrounding them, while Cox's prodigious talents are entirely wasted, playing a father who is more plot function than person.

The film's premise seems novel at first, but as surely as what goes up must come down, the inevitably earthbound cat-and-mouse dash that forms its climax is merely genre padding of a kind that has been seen too many times before.

Slick, taut and diverting enough, but also characterless, forgettable and inescapably bland, Red Eye is, ironically enough, the perfect film to watch on a plane.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2005
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Killer on a plane.
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Chris ***1/2


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