© 2005 Ray Wong

Stars: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Brittany Oaks, Jack Scalia
Director: Wes Craven
Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Dan Foos
Distributor: DreamWorks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, alcohol and themes
Running time: 85 minutes

Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Music/Sound– 6
Editing – 7
Production – 7

Total Score – 7.5 out of 10

With RED-EYE, Horror master Wes Craven (CURSED, the SCREAM series) branches out and delivers us a terrific, thrilling ride that hinges every bit on fear.

Lisa Reisert (McAdams) is a hotel executive returning to her Miami home after attending her grandmother’s funeral in Texas. Due to bad weather, the red-eye flight is delayed. Lisa has a nice encounter with an attractive traveler, Jackson (Murphy). Smitten but also guarded, she’s actually a little thrilled to later find Jackson seated next to her on the plane. What a coincidence. Or so it seems.

Soon she finds out what Jackson does for a living, and he’s “all about her.” Caught in a plot to assassinate the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (Scalia) and his family, Lisa is forced to do her part or else Jackson would have her father (Cox) killed. Time is ticking, and Lisa would either have to put up or do something…

Granted, the premise of this thriller is a little far-fetched. It seems like the villains are taking a lot of time and unnecessary risks. Why threaten the father? Isn’t it easier to threaten Lisa’s life directly? And why kidnap her on a plane with all those people surrounding them? Talk about inefficient. And please, all she has to do is scream “BOMB!” on the plane – but then, there would be no story.

Once we get past the flaws and leave our logic at the door, RED-EYE is a top-notch thriller. I would have preferred to leave out the “prologue” and follow Lisa immediately to create more suspense at the beginning. But after the initial “hook,” the film moves along like a rollercoaster. Writers Ellsworth and Foos, both first-time screenwriters, have created a masterful, suspenseful and taut script that has many twists and turns that keep the audience at the edge of their seats. What is remarkable is that much of the suspense and tension are focused on the two leads, with nothing more than background noises and a overhead lamp. The thriller doesn’t depend on big explosions and extended car chases – what a whiff of fresh air. Also, as silly as the premise is, the theme hinges on “family” – from Jackson’s threat to kill Lisa’s father, to how Lisa changes her mind after she learns that the Secretary’s family is with him. I think that’s a nice touch.

McAdams (WEDDING CRASHER) has emerged as one of the new “IT” girls after her break-out performances in MEAN GIRLS and THE NOTEBOOK. But she is more than just a pretty face. McAdams is vulnerable, girl-next-door, yet captivating. She really makes us believe in Lisa’s character and her dilemmas. And her conviction as well – she’s willing to do what is right at the risk of her life and her father’s. Murphy (BATMAN BEGINS) is perfectly cast as the charming, creepily handsome conspirator. His steel-cold blue eyes are mesmerizing. I hope he doesn’t get typecast, though; but he’s just so good in playing these roles.

The supporting cast is mostly adequate, with Cox (BOURNE SUPREMACY) as Lisa’s oblivious father. Cox usually plays slimy villains, so it’s a nice change of pace to see him as a loving father whose life’s at her daughter’s hands. Mays (TV’s SIX FEET UNDER, THE COMEBACK) also adds comic relief as Lisa’s hapless assistant. She’s fun to watch.

Director Craven has done a great job transitioning from horror to thriller. His deft execution and keen eye for details and pace have served him well. Here, he delivers a taut suspense that, even at its quiet moments, doesn’t allow the audience to breathe and relax. He doesn’t allow time for us to anticipate the next move either. From the opening credits to the realistic mayhem at the airport (I can surely relate) to the final scenes, Craven has held us hostage. And he’s given us a worthy heroine. All in merely 85 minutes. That’s some talent. In fact, I’d say RED-EYE is one of the best thrillers of this summer (but yes, please leave your logic at home).

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