Like Jack Torrance in The Shining, this Jack (OK, Jackson) is manifestly nuts, pre-going nuts in Red Eye. Cillian Murphy plays the sinister Jackson Rippner, obviously up to no good from the get-go, part of a team of hit-men going after the US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security in South Florida.
And Rippner needs to lean on high-level hotel manager Lisa (Rachel McAdams) to get the ball rolling, threatening to kill her father if she fails to comply with the loon’s request to have the politico change rooms for a more favorable shot.
It’s a devastating premise, with a setting that’s already horrific to many: a turbulent flight. And Wes Craven mines the claustrophobia (close confines he referred to as “compressed”), spate of minor indignities, and discomfort of modern air travel with aplomb.
For the most part, Red Eye will have you summoning the drinks cart to steady the nerves.
The film is Craven’s follow-up to Cursed, a werewolf Miramax mess, and depending on how you view the late auteur, either one of his many post-Scream debacles or a decent, capably made time-waster.
So, is Red Eye the Concorde….Airport 79 of horror-thrillers? Or is it more of an Airport 1975?
Jackson charms future seat-mate Lisa in an airport restaurant before revealing his sinister plans at 30,000-feet, suddenly head-butting her to keep her quiet when she attempts to break loose.
When she comes to, her attempts to thwart him at every turn propel the narrative along for a mostly satisfying in-flight experience.
Where Red Eye sags is in its conclusion, almost Commando-esque in its bazooka silliness.
And Lisa’s beleaguered hotel colleague Cynthia (Jayma Mays from Glee), is called upon continually to save the day, despite being a frazzled neophyte who has no business in hospitality management.
The steeliness, drive and dynamite performance of McAdams as a strong female lead is thrown off by the usual trappings of dumb-dumb horror – the “you don’t have to do this” pleading, which never sways psychopaths (they’re psychopaths, remember?)- and unstoppable killer nonsense.
*** (out of 5)