RED EYE (Wes Craven, 2005)
Lisa (Rachel McAdams) and Jackson (Cillian Murphy) meet in line waiting to catch the night's last flight from Dallas to Miami. They engage in some polite small talk and a little flirtation but nothing more. Fortuitously, they end up seated next to one another on the plane. The seating arrangement is no coincidence, though, and RED EYE is not a romance.
Jackson is involved in a plot to kill Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), and Lisa's job as a luxury hotel manager puts her in a position to help him fulfill his duty. All he needs Lisa to do is call her hotel, where Keefe is scheduled to stay, and have his room changed. To persuade her, Jackson has a man ready to kill her father (Brian Cox) if she fails to cooperate.
RED EYE is a nimble thriller that doesn't waste an opportunity to ratchet up the tension. Although not staged in real time, the film's immediacy and confined quarters force the characters to react instinctively rather than having the benefit of contemplation and possible escape. Director Wes Craven has crafted a lean film in which everything seen--even as insignificant as a Dr. Phil self-help book or a novelty pen--has a purpose.
RED EYE doesn't depend on deep characterization, but Carl Ellsworth's screenplay provides just enough clues to who these people are to make their behaviors believable in the situation. The leads do a wonderful job of filling in the blanks, McAdams in particular. She has seemed primed for stardom for awhile, although in actuality her rise to prominence has come in less than the past year and a half. If enough people see RED EYE, this could be the film to put her on the path to the predicted Julia Roberts-type stardom, if she chooses to follow that career track. As in WEDDING CRASHERS and THE NOTEBOOK, here she's the embodiment of The Girl Next Door. Pretty, friendly, down to earth, and able to fend for herself, McAdams is immensely likeable and familiar in a way that's rare for movie stars. (She also has a go-for-broke flair for comedy, which isn't on display in RED EYE but has been witnessed in MEAN GIRLS and, of all places, THE HOT CHICK.) McAdams' performance may be most notable for what it isn't. She's neither an action star nor a damsel in distress but a regular, headstrong woman.
Murphy also underplays his part, as unlikely as that sounds considering he's playing a terrorist with the improbable, malevolent name of Jackson Rippner. His character's motivation is to go unnoticed. Using his devilish charm, Murphy's vaguely dangerous portrayal of Jackson is what he makes him all the more seductive, even to someone like Lisa.
RED EYE is a wind-up machine of elegant simplicity, an increasingly uncommon breed among today's bloated genre films. Craven uses today's fears of domestic terrorism and the frustrations borne of it to make something exciting, heroic, and funny.