Craven thriller is an `Eye' opener

Movie Reviews

August 19, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Red Eye, with Rachel McAdams as a reluctant airline passenger who probably should have stayed on the ground, is a welcome antidote to the bloated, overthought and oversold studio pictures that have been drawing a collective yawn from audiences this summer. It's a taut thriller with a strong character at its core and a despicable villain there to torment her every step of the way, a crowd-pleaser in all the best senses of the term.

Director Wes Craven, working with first-time screenwriter Carl Ellsworth, wastes not a single moment in telling the story of Lisa Reisart, the manager of a high-priced Miami hotel, who is forced to take a red-eye flight back home after attending the funeral of her grandmother.

A reluctant flier at best, Lisa finds herself calmed by the presence of her new friend, Jackson Rippert (Cillian Murphy, his eyes too steely blue to be up to any good). He helps with her luggage, diverts her attention when turbulence hits, and just generally seems like the kind of dream guy you'd be proud to take home to dad.

Ah, but in the too-good-to-be-true department, Jackson turns out to have one heck of a hidden agenda. A hired assassin, he's going to have Lisa's father killed unless she calls her hotel and orders a room change for one of the guests, a VIP some terrorists would like to see eliminated.

McAdams, already on display this summer as straight woman to Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Wedding Crashers, proves an adept suspense heroine, pretty but not distractingly beautiful, filled with untapped resolve and a resourcefulness that seems extreme, but never unbelievable. Murphy (28 Days Later) is plenty creepy as a silky psychopath, while Brian Cox as Lisa's insomniac dad lets his beard do all the work.

Director Craven, having moved past the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises (though perhaps not too far, as witnessed by the pun that is our villain's name), is becoming a specialist in solid, frills-free movies that don't worry about pushing any cinematic envelopes, but simply concentrate on good stories well told. As in 1999's Music of the Heart, in which Meryl Streep played a New York public-school violin teacher who saw music as a way for kids to transcend the limitations of their boundless poverty, Red Eye features a strong central character (and bravo to him that they're both women) who taps into unsuspected resources to solve an especially vexing problem.

Craven's films aren't showy, but that should never be held against them. In their streamlined construction and rock-solid simplicity lay their brilliance.

Red Eye

Starring Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox

Directed by Wes Craven

Released by DreamWorks

Rated PG-13 (some intense sequences of violence, and language)

Time 85 minutes

Sun Score * * * (3 STARS)

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