Wes Craven is renowned for his horrors like The Nightmare on Elm Street Series and, more recently, his Scream trilogy. He is adept at painting a picture of extreme tension and suspense without holding back on all the blood and guts. He single-handedly reinvented and positively reinvigorated the horror genre with his scream movies and paved the way for no end of shameless, cheesy rip-offs. Thankfully he has managed to retain a strong thread of originality within his own work, up to and including his latest take on werewolf movies, Cursed. Now he has turned his hand to what seems like a very different kettle of fish - the suspense thriller - but, as I've already stated, the skills he employs to make suitably tense horror escapades are actually quite useful when creating a thriller. The question is: did he pull it off?
Lisa Reisert is a successful hotel manager, renowned for pleasing her guests and getting things done. Despite her abhorrence of flying, she has to take a late night 'red eye' flight to Miami for business reasons. It turns out, however, that it is going to be a much more eventful flight that she imagined. After bumping into a charming stranger who takes her for a drink while the flight is delayed and takes care of her during the takeoff, she lets her guard down and takes comfort in her new-found acquaintance.
Unfortunately he is not who he seems to be and all of her dreams are shattered as the nightmare unfolds around her. With her father's life under threat and nowhere to run within the confines of the airborne aircraft, she has to do exactly as she is told to do, despite desperately wanting to scream and run away. It soon becomes apparent that Lisa has to employ more than just standard defence tactics to stand up to this oppressor, relying on her wits and cunning to send messages, set traps and try to find a hole in the stranger's seemingly perfect plan of action.
Red Eye has a very interesting premise that is played out extremely well. For the first hour of the movie, you really do not know quite what is going to happen next, or how either of the two central protagonists are going to deal with the other's actions. Ok, so you're not quite on the edge of your seat, but that would be a cliché anyway. The first two acts of the movie are cleverly developed and carried off well and are a testament to Wes Craven's skills in this relatively different genre. Unfortunately - and it does come as a real disappointment - after nearly an hour of suspense, the last act of the movie is rushed through in record time, with barely fifteen minutes used to sort out all of the loose ends and bring it to a conclusion. Despite it allegedly being an eighty-five minute production, the reality is that this is barely seventy-five minutes of actual movie and that is just not long enough to give this movie the finale it deserves.
Performance-wise, Rachel McAdams fairs well as the heroine of the tale, exhibiting equal parts vulnerability and innovation in the role. Cillian Murphy, in a part very different from perhaps what you would expect from him after something like 28 Days Later, is remarkably good as the sinister Jackson who hijacks her life on the red eye flight. It is also worth noting the ever-reliable Brian Cox as Lisa's father, despite the fact that his role is very restricted given the nature of the story.
Red Eye is definitely worth watching, if only for the first hour of suspense, but it is a surprising shame just how swiftly and by-the-numbers the whole affair is rounded off, leaving you feeling thoroughly unsatisfied with what you get at the end. Wes Craven is clearly able to handle the thriller genre and pull off something new and interesting, it is just a disappointment that he could not carry it off all the way to its conclusion. Perhaps next time.