Red Eye

  • Wes Craven
  • 2005

Most films nowadays are big. The bigger the better, particularly in summer, is the general consensus, but few films make a point of being small, particularly in terms of their use of space. This is a shame because there have been many impressive films, such as 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957) and Phone Booth (Joel Schumacher, 2002), which are striking because of how the directors, actors and more importantly writers have limited themselves and gone one to make innovative use of otherwise problematically restricted spaces. So, when I heard Wes Craven was directing a psychological thriller/horror set on a plane, I was immediately interested.

…Craven delivers some tightly claustrophobic and psychological horror

And the concept is pretty good. Lisa Reisert (Rachael McAdams) is a hotel manager with a fear of flying who unfortunately has to take a plane home. And to make matters worse, after take-off she is unremittingly stalked by a hitman (Cillian Murphy) forcefulling blackmailing her to take part in an assassination. Craven delivers some tightly claustrophobic and psychological horror and McAdams works reasonably as the terrified girl set against the ever-impressive Cillian Murphy, but as the plane lands maybe an hour into the film, the concept rapidly emerges as short lived.

Indeed screenwriter Carl Ellsworth fails to deliver on the concept half as well as Larry Cohen did with his tightly claustrophobic script in Phone Booth, as only thirty minutes of action actually takes place on the plane. Craven builds up various ancillary characters that could all be interestingly used, but then they simply don’t feature, rendering much of the opening development pointless. And to add to the disappointment Craven quickly falls back into old horror habits as Red Eye finishes with a chase followed by a extended slasher scene that basically retreads familiar grounds in not just one, but three Scream films, and numerous of his other twenty feature films.

…a problem that regrettably occurs far too often in Hollywood’s summer output

Unfortunately there is always going to be a problem when a good concept with a psychological edge is lacking in brains, a problem that regrettably occurs far too often in Hollywood’s summer output. Cillian Murphy and McAdams are good with what they’ve got, but unfortunately it isn’t enough, and Craven and Ellsworth ultimately fail to deliver as they struggle to find the balance between a taut psychological thriller, and a generic Craven slasher film.

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