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Red Eye   B-

DreamWorks Pictures

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Carl Ellsworth
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Jack Scalia.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Red Eye is an Alfred Hitchcock premise that has Wes Craven's unmistakable fingerprints on it. The fact that the horror director manages to avoid tipping the apple cart toward his preferred style until the film's erratic conclusion makes this trim thriller an unexpected late-summer treat.

Craven, best known for his Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, confines starlets Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy aboard the titular red-eye flight from Dallas to Miami. She's a connected hotel manager in position to complete a basic task his terrorist employers need done. To reveal more would be criminal and wholly unnecessary. As a bonus, the brilliant Brian Cox turns up as McAdams' concerned father, an insomniac who might encounter a bit of trouble before the night is up.

The setup flies, the tension builds, and screenwriter Carl Ellsworth cooks a taut summer page-turner of a thriller with mild political overtones. Even the title implies paperback thrash, a Dean Koontz flipper you'd purposely leave at the beach once finished. The film's claustrophobic setting does wonders for Craven, who appears more focused than ever before. He bursts out of the gate by juggling assorted characters with potential plot threads, some of which he follows and most of which he discards.

The director's emphasis always returns to McAdams and Murphy, and the two gel over increasingly heated and thought-provoking dialogue. McAdams deftly conveys a range of emotions that help sell the improbable premise and a few laughable coincidences. Murphy, her charismatic co-star, rapidly shifts from charmer to creep (and back again), knowing that time is of the essence both on screen and off.

Sadly for us, hunter and prey eventually must exit the plane, and the cramped enjoyment of this Twilight Zone offshoot escapes with them. The film's ending, a flurry of car chases and combat techniques, falls back on trite serial-killer staples Craven has mastered. That being said, even the most cynical of filmgoers would be hard-pressed to complain about an 85-minute film that works for 65 minutes.

Review published 08.17.2005.

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