By the end of the 90s director, Wes Craven had already cemented his position as one of the true kings of horror, from grungy low-budget offerings like The Hills Have Eyes, a supernatural outing that brought the world Freddy Krueger and the meta-horror of the Scream franchise, but in 2005 with a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth, he gave us a film with a bit of Hitchcockian flare that took us up into the air.
The basic plot here is that Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is taking the red-eye back to Miami, after going to her grandmother’s funeral, and she runs into a charming fellow traveller named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) who she seems to keep randomly bumping into, right up to the point where they find themselves sitting next to each other on the plane. Of course, these meetings were anything but coincidental, as Jackson quickly reveals to her, he is some globetrotting killer for hire and he needs her help on his latest assignment. Apparently, the Deputy Director of Homeland Security Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia) is going to be staying at the hotel where she is the manager and they need Lisa to use her managerial position at the Lux Atlantic Hotel in Miami to have her co-worker Cynthia (Jayma Mays), a beleaguered front desk worker, move the Deputy Secretary to a room that would allow the terrorist to hit it with a harbour view missile strike. But how could Jack possibly coerce an upstanding citizen to aid in such a crime? Well, he simply tells her that there is a man sitting in a silver BMW outside her father’s home, and if she doesn’t do as she is told he will call the man and her father (Brian Cox) will be killed. This is where the film’s plot completely falls apart under this absurd premise, which is due to the fact that Jackson is completely unarmed and onboard a plane at 30,000 feet with only a phone to contact his associates, which leads us to the question…
• The film’s opening shot includes a picture of Lisa playing field hockey in high school, just so we’ll know what she will use to fight off the villain during the final act.
• Jack headbutts Lisa into unconsciousness so that he can deal with a note she “secretly” left for one of the passengers but this could have easily rendered her unconscious for the remainder of the flight or long, heck, it could have even killed her.
• Jack initially states that if his man doesn’t get a call from him her dad will die but when she does make the call to change Charles Keefe’s room he refuses to call his man to stand down, reassuring her, “He doesn’t make a move without my say so” which should have resulted in her screaming for the stewardess.
• Instead of calling for help, Lisa stabs Jack in the neck with a pen and then spends the next little while dodging airport security instead of telling them what is going on so that they can alert Keefe’s security detail.
• To keep the tension up Lisa first can’t use her cell phone due to “no service” and then a little later it fails because of “low battery” Can anyone else say “contrived” I knew you could.
• Lisa tells Cynthia to pull the fire alarm and then go up and personally tell the security detail that Keefe is a target, but wouldn’t the fire alarm alone have been enough to cause the detail immediately escort their primary to a safe place?
Wes Craven’s Red Eye is the kind of thriller that relies on the constant build-up of tension so that the audience doesn’t question some of the strange logic questions of the characters, Jack’s threat of “You tell a flight attendant and your dad dies” doesn’t really hold water because Lisa could have simply screamed “This man is a terrorist” and then had the pilot call the authorities and have the police race over to her father’s house and apprehend the killer parked outside, and while this is a fairly glaring issue it’s not so much a plot hole as it is “forced character mistakes” to keep the plot moving along, which is I’m able to forgive because the two leads are fantastic and the at 85-minutes in length Craven is able to create a very tight and engaging thriller.
With the script’s nail-biting moments and unexpected twists, sharp dialogue and impeccable acting is impeccable from both Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy there is a lot to love about this film, the tension between these two lead characters is palpable and much of this is due to their fantastic chemistry, that the film starts out like a romantic comedy before switching into intense thriller-mode is what makes this an above average entry and you could believe the McAdams and Murphy would do well in something like When Harry Met Sally, unfortunately for our protagonist, this is not that kind of film.
On the technical side of things, the camera work is exceptional, creating an intense and claustrophobic atmosphere on the airplane which enhances the film’s pacing and gives it a perfect balance of action and suspense, and the score by Marco Beltrami is also worth mentioning as it adds to the tension and enhances the overall mood of the film. Basically, Red Eye is a movie that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys a good thriller. It is an exciting and engaging movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end, with outstanding performances, sharp dialogue, and masterful direction making it a classic in its genre
Movie Rank - 7/10
Wes Craven’s Red Eye is a well-crafted and suspenseful movie that delivers on all fronts. Wes Craven’s direction is masterful, the acting is superb, and the storyline is engaging and thrilling. If you’re a fan of action movies or suspense thrillers, this one is definitely worth checking out.