Often called a “psychological thriller,” Wes Craven’s Red Eye (2005) could also easily be considered a political thriller. In other words, it’s a little different from other Wes Craven movies. Granted, Craven’s films (and art in general) can all be tied to political themes in some way. A Nightmare on Elm Street deals with vengeful parents frying a child murderer that the courts set free. The People Under the Stairs deals with class and racial issues, as well as warped family dynamics. Basically, Craven had a knack for tying issues into horror stories, and without spelling everything out for us dullards.

Red Eye, on the other hand, is not so much about social commentary as it is about straight-up political intrigue and suspense. In it, Rachel McAdams plays a hotel manager named Lisa who’s scheduled to fly to her grandmother’s funeral. When her flight is delayed she meets a man named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy). At first, Mr. Rippner seems like a real gentleman, perhaps trying to sweep her off her feet. However, he ends up keeping us at the edge of our seats, as he is not a perfect gentleman after all!

Basically, Lisa is unwillingly ensnared in an assassination plot against a Homeland Security head honcho named Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia). At the end of the day, Red Eye doesn’t just refer to the flight, but to the bloodshot- eye-inducing stress of Lisa, who must set up the assassination to save the life of her dad (Brian Cox).

Things That Work

Red Eye was a successful enough movie, and remains so. By no means would I say this movie is trash or anything like that. What I like is that the performances are even. Cillian Murphy never outshines Rachel McAdams, despite having more of a Jekyll-to-Hyde character transformation. Rachel McAdams never comes across as a “damsel in distress,” even when her character is in distress. At the same time, she never comes across as too exaggeratedly tough. She’s somewhere in that middle zone, which is a great place to be for dramatic tension. You know she’s smart enough to possibly outwit Rippner, yet he’s no dummy, either. The end result is a strategic battle of wills. Carl Ellsworth’s writing is pretty solid in that regard, but it’s definitely also conveyed by the acting.

Are There Flaws?

I don’t wish to make this seem flawless. It is true that it starts off relatively slow. Also, if I’m being honest, Brian Cox seems a bit underutilized in the role, given his proven potential for compelling performances. However, even that’s not a major strike against the film. In a way, maybe it’s refreshing that he’s only a supporting role. While some might say this is just an action thriller, there are some Hitchcock elements here. In fact, this may have been Craven’s definitive nod in that direction, which he’s not really known for doing. So, yes, I recommend Red Eye, but don’t expect it to be like anything else Wes Craven put out. It’s not, and that’s part of what makes it special.

What are your thoughts on Red Eye? Let us know in the comments!

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