Cillian Murphy is remarkably well cast for the
role of a self-assured killer in the new Wes Craven
film Red-Eye. He has the unnaturally relaxed face and cold
blank stare of Christopher Walken, and the deeply
smug voice of James Spader. The combination makes
him a natural to play the heavy in any film. I expect his wonderful
turn in Batman Begins, and now Red-Eye to be only
the beginning for him.
As for the rest of the film, well let me say we’ve been
here before. Strangers meet, a seemingly chance encounter, they
hit it off, but one of them turns out to have rather sinister motives.
Of course a thriller like this owes an enormous debt to Hitchcock,
though a closer relative maybe the Johnny Depp
vehicle Nick Of Time. Wearing its influences on its sleeves,
makes it entirely fair to say that there’s nothing really
original about Red-Eye, not that there’s anything
wrong with that. Hollywood has always excelled at refining this
kind of genre work.
The other star of the Red-Eye is Rachel McAdams,
who like Murphy, is enjoying an auspicious summer, thanks to her
role in Wedding Crashers. A Jennifer Garner
doppelganger, she has the kind of poised, wholesome good looks that,
combined with an almost sexless aura, will propel her toward a career
of playing lawyers.
The film is ably directed by horror legend Wes Craven,
the man who put the slasher genre to bed with Wes Craven’s
New Nightmare and woke it up with Scream. He has matured
over the years into an effective craftsman (as, say, John
Carpenter has not) and brings just the right touch of guignol
to Red-Eye. That is, until the end.
Craven takes his time and nicely develops the early scenes, keeping
things quite suspenseful until the inevitable revelation. Afterward
the film, like its heroine, really doesn’t have anywhere to
go. It’s a testament to his skill that he can keep such a
weak story interesting after we’ve already figured out how
the film must end. Nothing that happens after the first 30 minutes
is even slightly unpredictable, but it’s well executed, Craven
makes nice use of his locations, and Murphy is always game. And
for a while we in the audience have the illusion that we’re
actually watching a good movie.
It’s not until end that the wheels come off. Then the threadbare
plot is revealed for all its cheapness, and Craven is forced to
engage in the kind of horribly clichéd hide-and-seek game
with the killer that hasn’t been suspenseful since Jamie
Lee Curtis and Mike Myers first danced in Halloween.