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17 March 2006

Red Eye (2005)

Rachel McAdams (Lisa), Cillian Murphy (Jackson), Brian Cox (Dad)

Directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

From IMDB: A woman is kidnapped by a stranger on a routine flight. Threatened by the potential murder of her father, she is pulled into a plot to assist her captor in offing a politician.

Like a romance writer who yearns to write literature but cannot bring herself to give up erotic sex scenes and happy endings or, for a more high-brow comparison, like Shakespeare's dramatic later works where he simply could not part with crowd-pleasing comic characters, Wes Craven cannot escape his horror flick roots. Granted, no one in Red Eye was stabbed (with a knife) and the damsel in distress wielded a field hockey stick, but Craven's famous conventions clouded and trivialized what could have been a more significantly interesting film.

As a disclaimer, I adore Cillian Murphy. From the limited films in which I have seen him (the fantastic 28 Days Later... and Batman Begins), I have decided that he is extra dreamy and wickedly talented. This performance was no exception. He was a slick, effective combination of funny, likeable pretty-boy and suave serial killer - until the script forced him into the role of typical villain parody. Without him, Red Eye would have been immeasurably less watchable. Rachel McAdams is pretty enough and has a certain believable resolve, but she fed off of Murphy's wit and charisma throughout their scenes together.

And their scenes together were numerous! Fully the first 45 minutes were devoted to Craven's tight close-ups of their quick dialogue as young, cute, unassuming travelers Lisa and Jackson got to know each other. Too bad it wasn't a romantic comedy; Murphy and McAdams displayed more on-screen chemistry than many failed attempts in that genre. But, of course, all that cute flirtation came to an end when Jackson had to go all international hitman on his sweet companion. I mean, the head-butt ended any chance for a future they might have had!

Alas, I could not properly enjoy the fun opening rounds of pretty people conversing because I knew, eventually, the film would start to suck. And it did. Composer Marco Beltrami, who has worked with Craven on numerous previous projects, did his best to try and scare the audience with sudden jumps of cacophonic music and creepy violins. Ohhh, and is there a guy hiding behind the shower curtain? Ohhh, is there a guy hiding behind the door? And ohhh, it's Colby from "Survivor: Outback"! What's he doing in a proper film?

McAdams, still establishing herself after the sap-fest, five hankie flick The Notebook and the yet-to-see comedy The Wedding Crashers, needs the right film to make her a superstar in the Reese Witherspoon vein of sweetness and talent. Craven, after the out-of-character semi-inspira- tional drama Music of the Heart, needs the right film to extricate himself from his slasher persona (if that is, indeed, what he wants to accomplish). Finally, Murphy needs to go back to Danny Boyle and demand another role at least as good as his turn as a zombie survivor. In the meantime, I have discovered that he co-stared in Girl with a Pearl Earring with the lovely Mr. Firth. I think that one just got bumped to the top of my Must See list. With Scarlett Johansson as the lead, Keven is sure to keep me company...

I digress. One last observation before leaving Red Eye to the realm of almost-entertaining films: Keven and I observed that this would have been a much more surprising movie if we had not known its basic premise. Craven methodically introduced his audience to a number of passengers on the plane, including a sweet old lady with a jones for Dr. Phil and an 11-year-old girl traveling by herself, before allowing the delayed flight to leave the ground. Ignorant of the plot, I would have thought this was a classic air disaster film waiting to unleash it gut-wrenching potential, especially after a rough take-off sequence and some mid-air turbulence. In such a film, the plucky young newly-introduced couple of Murphy and McAdams would have followed in the footsteps of other disaster movie lovers like Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed. But no. The red herrings led nowhere, and I was left only with ideas about what this film could have been.

Blogger Pacze Moj said...

You're right about how much better the film would have been if I didn't know the premise, and the genre. I wish the studio would have marketed this as a romantic comedy!

The film's opening scenes (dark airport) reminded me of the opening of Dario Argento'd Suspiria -- and raised my hopes. After that, it let me down.


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