Afraid of flying? Then Red Eye, an intense psychological thriller, will be even more frightening for you than for most viewers. I know that for a fact, because I’m a fellow-sufferer who’s given up flying. And this film was almost too terrifying for me to watch. The idea of being on a plane is scary enough, but watching a woman sit in cramped quarters next to a stranger who’s trying to involve her in a diabolical assassination plot was almost too terrifying to bear.
Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins), who plays the villain here, hits the nail on the head in his comments concerning the terror evoked by Red Eye. “Fear of flying is such a common thing, especially in the climate in which we live now, and most people hate sitting beside strangers on a plane,” he says. “I think this film taps into all those fears and anxieties -- and when you have Wes Craven directing, you know you’re definitely in for something scary.”
Surprisingly, under Craven’s (Nightmare on Elm Street) direction, Red Eye emphasizes character-driven suspense rather than the horror elements we’ve come to expect from the legendary scaremaster’s films. “This is definitely not a horror film,” Craven insists. “There aren’t people being chased by a maniac with a butcher knife, and nobody wears a mask -- except in the sense of presenting himself as one thing and then turning out to be totally different.”
At the beginning of the film, Murphy’s character comes across as a charming, helpful guy. He’s Jackson Rippner, who even jokes about his name with Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) during their first meeting, which occurs in the airport while they’re both waiting to catch the last flight out to Miami. Imagine Lisa’s surprise when she finds her seat on the plane is the one next to Jackson. It’s the window seat, so she’s boxed in -- and that suits Jackson just fine. The better to terrorize her, my dear. And if Lisa doesn’t follow Jackson’s instructions, her father (Brian Cox) will be killed.
With their riveting performances in this film, Murphy and McAdams (Wedding Crashers) are on the way to “A-list” movie stardom. Murphy can change his demeanor in the blink of an eye. And, speaking of eyes, his are the most piercing blue we’ve seen on screen since Paul Newman’s. McAdams, besides being completely gorgeous, displays a full range of acting pizzazz. She makes us believe that Lisa is a “people pleaser, 24/7” who must ultimately call on all her inner resources and physical strength to defeat Jackson. The interplay between these two actors is electrifying.
Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of Red Eye. It’s a film featuring the same kind of excruciating suspense he created in Strangers on a Train. With a tight script by Carl Ellsworth (Xena: Warrior Princess) and newcomer Dan Foos, there’s not one wasted minute. Background music by Marco Beltrami (Hellboy) is so appropriate it could scare you just listening to it -- even without watching the movie. Robert Yeoman’s (Rushmore) excellent cinematography draws us into the film with swooping shots through the plane and dramatic close-ups of Murphy and McAdams.
If you love being frightened at the movies by something other than supernatural forces, don’t miss Red Eye.
(Released by DreamWorks Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some intense sequences of violence and language.)