Red Eye (2005)
I wonder why Wes Craven didn’t embrace his Tony Scott side more in his film career. One of my favourite Tony Scott movies is True Romance. It’s a movie that jumps out of his filmography. Likewise, 2005’s Red Eye seems at odds with the rest of the horror maestro’s CV. It feels slick and commercial like a David Fincher feature, but is populated with a lot of Wes Craven staples: suspense, humour, good pacing, a showdown at a house, and a compelling heroine.
Rachel McAdams stars as Lisa Reisert during an absolutely blistering stretch of her career.
- 2002 The Hot Chick
- 2004 Mean Girls
- 2004 The Notebook
- 2005 Wedding Crashers
- 2005 Red Eye
- 2005 The Family Stone
In this role, McAdams gets to tap into something more psychological. She plays a hotel manager stuck in a dire situation who has to fight her way out. Like Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott in Scream, Lisa Reisert has an off-screen traumatic backstory. And over the course of the movie, we learn a little bit more about her, and watch as she channels that personal pain into agency and resourcefulness. But unlike Campbell, McAdams is able to deftly perform the romantic comedy moments with convincing charm. Just watch her order a Bay Breeze.
Wes Craven consistently balances chaotic thrills with wry wit. He’s a genius with tone and pacing. This movie jolts to life during the opening credits and doesn’t let up until the final shot, but all the while, he’s able to manage the motion of the story moving from the airport to the plane to the house. Red Eye is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Wes Craven toys with the suspense and the expectations of the audience. He populates this story with a lot of rich background characters on a journey, many of whom speak very little, but they all feel purposeful to the momentum of the plot.
Then comes the crescendo: the showdown at the house — again like Scream’s third act. The layout of the house may not be architecturally sound, but it provides a fantastic setting for Lisa Reisert to fight Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) on her own terms. The action choreography may not rise to the level of John Wick 2, but it’s considerably more fun and bracing than Matrix 4.
And speaking of fun, it’s amazing to watch Brian Cox act around the edges of this movie with a fluidity that is almost jarring because of how strikingly different it is from his portrayal as Logan Roy in Succession.
Now, there’s a giant item that cannot be ignored about this film — the 9/11 overtone. There’s a boat sequence that feels almost ripped from the script of 24 which doesn’t quite gel with the rest of what Wes Craven is doing. As a result, the first half of the movie is significantly stronger than the second half. Even the climax at the house feels like a loose allegory for “something something homeland security” or “defending the homeland”. But you can’t really pull those War on Terror elements from the story because then you’ll end up focusing way too much on why the movie is called Red Eye when the flight from Texas to Miami is probably only 2.5 hours!