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Rated 3.05 stars
by 2414 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Plane Thrills
by Jeffrey Chen

There's something cool about using a tried-and-true genre template to comment on the moods of the day. Red Eye seems almost too happy to be your standard, paranoid, woman-in-peril, audience participation thriller. You know the kind I mean -- it's one of those movies that makes you want to yell, "Look out!" to the characters on the screen, because by some point it's so wrapped up in its paces that it's practically going on auto-pilot. And, really, this creates a feeling of comfort -- we've all seen this style of flick before, so even though it's supposed to make us nervous, we're actually quite cozy with it.

In other words, Red Eye has a job to do and it knows its job well. What director Wes Craven is good at doing is injecting these seemingly frivolous rides with a little bit of unnerving relevance. Fear has to come from somewhere, and different times create different sources for it. Thus, with its plot concentrating on airplanes and an attempt on the life of the Director of Homeland Security, post-9/11 ideas get their play here. What's interesting, though, involves how the obvious imagery is placed more in the background behind a more subtle metaphor for homeland invasion, one that's particularly recognizable to women.

A woman emerges as our hero here, and none of the movie would work if she wasn't someone we could cheer on, so Red Eye has Rachel McAdams to thank. She has the most to gain from this outing -- she has top billing and her star is on the rise -- and she does a great job in selling the story. Last seen as a sincere force in Wedding Crashers, which didn't handle its elements of sincerity very smoothly, she's again a sincere force as Lisa, a hotel manager with a forward-looking yet experienced outlook. There's a warmth about McAdams that makes her appealing as a lead, a sweetness not formed from naivete but from a knowing self-confidence and an unwillingness to succumb to displays of utter cynicism. In Red Eye, in which her character is forced to cooperate in a terrorist plot while trapped on a flight to Miami, this quality works effectively to make Lisa sympathetic and engaging.

Helping to make this scenario work is Cillian Murphy as the charming yet creepy Jackson, whose interaction with Lisa forms the core of the movie. If he didn't do his job well, McAdams wouldn't have an appropriate counterbalance. Red Eye is thus a rather delectable dance between the two actors, and perhaps it's all the more delectable because the material is so goofy. If the level of goofiness doesn't occur to you in the first two-thirds of the movie, the thought of it will most likely take shape during the last third, during which the flick rather unexpectedly becomes a slasher chase.

But this is all part of the fun. Red Eye delivers brisk escapism, hooking viewers with two solid lead performances and sweeping them in for its let's-play-along trip. Starting out with a scenario that suggests danger in circumstances when we're least expecting it, the film outwardly, knowingly moves toward female empowerment motifs, some of which involve a few side characters, but mostly they're carried through by McAdams. Her performance anchors the improbable flurry of irate travelers, menacing assassins, rocket launchers, and dying cell phones -- she's the key to the movie's confident combination of no-frills familiar formula, suspense tactics exercising, and the cultural commentary on stress, fear, and control.

(Released by DreamWorks and rated "PG-13" for some intense sequences of violence and language.)

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