Under normal circumstances Wes Craven’s new picture RED EYE would be nothing special. But his last one was that horrible werewolf travesty called CURSED so this is sort of an event. Wes Craven made a movie and it’s kind of good.
I believe this is a first for Wes Craven: not a horror movie, and yet not about a white lady teaching inner city kids to play violin. What it is is a suspense thriller type deal that takes place on a plane. It is the first in the slew of plane-fear-sploitation movies that I guess are inevitable both in the aftermath of 9-11 and in the leadup to SNAKES ON A PLANE.
It turns out I wasn’t the only one who hated WEDDING CRASHERS, because in this movie Cillian Murphy takes wedding crasher love interest Rachel Macadams hostage and torments her. She’s the boss lady at a fancy hotel where the fictional head of Homeland Security is going to be staying. Cillian works for some kind of nefarious operation and his task is to get Rachel to change Homeland Security guy to a different room for more convenient assassination. All she has to do is make a phone call and if she doesn’t, her dad gets it.
Before he tells her the deal though he adds an unneccessary flourish: he meets her in line at the airport, flirts with her, buys her a drink. Then “coincidentally” ends up sitting next to her on the plane. And she seems to be falling for him until the whole “I’ve been stalking you for weeks and right now there’s a guy parked in front of your dad’s house waiting for my command to kill him” thing comes up. Guys, remember, that’s a dealbreaker for most women. So from this point on, they are enemies instead of potential lovers. But if he wanted to I think Cillian could make a big humiliating public speech at the climax where he admits that he was stalking her so he could force her to aid in an assasination plot, but then something happened that was never part of the plan: he fell in love with her. He fell in love with the way she smiles, the way she looks at him, the way she selflessly tries to help her employees at the hotel with a problem while she’s about to miss a plane. And most of all he loves her because he makes her want to be a better man, to stop tormenting people on planes and do something good for the world. Yes, he lied to her. Yes, he coldcocked her on a plane and beat her up in the airplane bathroom and etc. And he’s sorry. He knows he doesn’t deserve her. And if she never wants to see him again, he’ll understand. But he loves her. Rachel, will you marry me?
This isn’t that type of movie though. So instead of apologizing and making amends he chases her off the airplane for some of the ol’ cat and mouse. It would be great though if somebody somewhere got to see this movie thinking it was a romance. The opening 10 minutes or so acts like you haven’t seen the ads and really think these two are falling in love. If it is possible I would suggest that you go into this movie not knowing what it is. So please don’t read any of this review before or after this sentence.
The best thing about the movie is Cillian Murphy. I don’t remember him looking weird in quite this same way in 28 DAYS LATER, but since this one’s mostly on a plane there’s lots of extreme closeups and you really get to study this freak. Put a mop of hair on the guy and he gets some kind of a weird handsome psychopath thing going. At first glance he looks pretty and on further examination he looks creepy and soul-less.
One nice touch: most of the details of the assassination plot are left to the imagination. There’s a snippet of the victim in a press conference on tv that suggests there’s gonna be some sort of point about the “war on terror” (pro, if I had to guess) but they don’t really follow that. All you see is that he’s a seemingly nice guy with a wife and kids and it would probaly be wrong to blow them all up. We don’t ever hear any motivations or explanatory speeches for the assassination. Cillian is just doing his job, he doesn’t give a shit about the politics and, even better, doesn’t bother to brag about that he doesn’t give a shit about the politics. And we don’t learn anything about the people who attempt the actual killing. (There’s a little bit of them talking in a non-English language. Russian maybe? I would’ve preferred they left that out to make it even more mysterious.)
Brian Cox is her dad and he’s a total sweetheart. As far as we know he is not a child molester, a mutant hater or a cannibal. I guess it is possible that he is all three of these things but I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt unless further evidence turns up. He doesn’t get to play a regular nice guy very often these days, so congratulations to him.
A certain amount of suspension of the ol’ disbelief is required if you’re gonna enjoy this one. I thought it was a little suspicious that this guy could threaten and torment her so much on a plane post 9-11 without anybody noticing. But it’s possible. And when the chase comes to the airport, you wonder how anybody can get away with running through an airport these days. But then I’ve been in airports and it doesn’t always seem like the security people are paying attention to anything other than making you take your shoes off. So I’ll buy that. But then you also gotta buy his name, Jackson Rippner. He brings it up only to say that he doesn’t go by “Jack” because it sounds like Jack the Ripper. But if his parents shouldn’t have named him that then maybe the screenwriters shouldn’t have either.
A good thing about RED EYE though: it doesn’t fuck around. 87 minutes and that might be including the credits. Exactly the right length for something like this. Give or take 12 seconds. Myself though, I haven’t learned that lesson, I still overindulge and overstay my welcome, so right after this double space down here I’m gonna go off on a tangent. sorry friends.
There is one reoccurring theme in the movie that you wouldn’t expect: people having to put up with asshole customers in the workplace. At the beginning of the movie the flight has been cancelled and everybody’s waiting in line to find out what to do. One guy gets all pissed off and starts yelling at a lady at the counter demanding to SEE YOUR MANAGER and all that type of shit. Both Rachel and Cillian stand up for the poor gal, knowing that she didn’t personally fly up into the sky and stir the storm clouds around in order to cancel this guy’s flight. But when faced on the phone with a fight between a hotel employee and some regular customers who are treating her like shit, she sides with the customers, comping them for their rooms and telling the employee “There are no asshole customers, just customers with special needs.”
You see this kind of thing from time to time waiting in line at a store or a rental car office or wherever, and I gotta say that no, there are assholes. All over the place. There’s a certain kind of people out there that live their life and do their job and whatever but as soon as they go into somebody else’s place of business they get all full of themselves and think of the people working there not as people but as their servants. And as soon as something doesn’t go their way they argue and start making demands and when the poor kid behind the counter doesn’t give in right away, they get a devious smile and pull out that “Okay then, I want to talk to… YOUR MANAGER!” thing. Or, “Give me the address of your owner. BECAUSE I AM ABOUT TO WRITE A HARSH LETTER AND YOU WILL ALWAYS REGRET THAT YOU DID NOT GIVE IN TO MY CRAZY THREATS.” People do this because they don’t think reasonably, they have no perspective, they have no empathy for other people, they don’t imagine themselves in other people’s shoes and also, because they are just assholes. And they know that at most of these corporate places, if you complain about something – no matter how ridiculous – you’re gonna get a free coupon or at least some manager is gonna come out and pretend that you have a good point and apologize and kiss your ass and you’re gonna get to go off on some insane rant about how some minimum wage kid should be fired because YOU are the CUSTOMER and YOU are gonna pay $4.95 for a coffee and YOU should not be disrespected like that when you complain that there is too much hazelnut in your drink and you specifically stated that you think their hazelnut flavoring is too strong and asked that they only put a tiny bit of hazelnut but you can still taste the hazelnut and you are OUTRAGED.
Well Rachel MacAdams in this movie is the manager who does the asskissing and gives the free stuff. But then she has this whole the-plot-of-RED-EYE experience and that changes her. Maybe it’s because in a way Cillian is doing the same thing, he’s treating her like shit and bullying and threatening her, “I’m gonna kill your dad, give me what I want, whine whine whine I’m a litle baby.” She learns to stand up to him and not cave in. So then when she comes home after all this horror and the same people giving her employee shit in the beginning of the movie try to pull the “we’re regular customers and how DARE they mix up our reservations, DO YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE?” card on her, she tells them to go fuck themselves.
That is the real lesson to take out of this movie because really, how many people watching it are ever gonna get terrorized by Cillian Murphy on a plane? Probaly less than 10%. But of those others, many of them are gonna be working in jobs where they get treated like shit and have to eat it up. The type of job I’m sure this screenwriter was doing shortly before writing the script. So now he is sharing the RED EYE motto: the customer is sometimes right, the rest of the time they should go sit on a pole.
So anyway, decent thriller, pretty well made, not particularly memorable. But I’m going to say go ahead Wes Craven, let’s see another movie, maybe this will work out after all.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.