Lisa (Rachel McAdams, "Wedding Crashers", "The Notebook"), the manager of the Lux Atlantic hotel in Miami, is very late for her plane in Dallas. Shaking the rain off, she stands in line at the airport terminal and meets Jackson (Cillian Murphy, "Batman Begins", "28 Days Later"). Jackson calms a tense situation with another passenger and then introduces himself, telling Lisa that he will be in the bar, waiting for the plane, if she cares to join him. She politely begs off but does end up having a drink with him. As Lisa boards the plane, she finds that she is sitting next to Jackson. The plane takes off and Lisa becomes nervous, because she hates to fly prompting Jackson to try to calm her, by getting her to talk about her dad, Joe (Brian Cox). After the plane has lifted through the turbulence, he reveals that he knows a lot more about Lisa than he should and he simply needs Lisa to make a phone call. If she does, her dad will not be harmed by the man sitting outside of his house.
"Red Eye" directed by Wes Craven ("Cursed", the "Scream" films, "Nightmare Before Elm Street") is a very good example of the thriller genre.
I think the first trailer released for this film is a brilliant piece of marketing. The trailer paints the film as a nice, romantic drama featuring a chance meeting between Lisa and Jackson. They meet in the airport, they have a snack together, then, lo and behold, they find they are sitting next to each other. The flight will be a pleasant affair. Just as the trailer has convinced you of this, a title card appears announcing "A Film by Wes Craven", in red lettering, and the music becomes ominous. The trailer is so brilliant, because it so completely convinced me that the film would be a romantic drama before switching gears, that my hopes were raised for this film.
"Red Eye" has a lot going for it. Not the least of its attributes is that the film is very brisk and clocks in at about 85 minutes long. This provides Craven with little room for lingering on anything and he keeps things moving. The subplot, which begins before we even meet Lisa, is introduced with a series of brief shots depicting the machinations of a group who need Lisa's help. These shots are quick, informative and interesting. Then the main story kicks in and we leave this group for a while.
When we meet Lisa, you might think the film would seem to slow down a little, but upon reflection, I realized that every scene has at least two purposes in the plot. The initial encounter between Lisa and Jackson, in line at the ticket counter, would seem to serve only one purpose, to introduce the two characters to one another. Later in the film, one of the characters involved makes a brief reappearance. In fact, many of the minor characters are introduced and we learn a little bit about their characters. In some way or fashion, they will all have another moment or two to either help or complicate the journey of Lisa and Jackson.
Because all of these minor characters are given a `history', the film rises above the rest of the pack. Most films don't even bother with minor characters, using them simply as window dressing. In "Red Eye", they become a part of the story. An older flight attendant complains to her co-worker about a broken coffee pot and the company stealing her pension from her. A little girl is flying alone for the first time. An elderly woman strikes up a conversation with Lisa about the Dr. Phil book her father loaned her. A woman flirts insistently with Jackson asking for his help with her bag. All of this may seem like busy work, but Craven and the writers, Carl Ellsworth and Dan Foos tie it all back to the plot and make them a part of the story. Because of this level of detail, the film is, ultimately, stronger.
The relationship between Lisa and Jackson is intriguing and interesting to watch. Lisa isn't the normal helpless heroine. She reveals that she may be a little tougher than Jackson hoped and ultimately becomes a more interesting adversary to him. Jackson is also quietly menacing, quick to smile to someone on the plane who may have noticed them, to assuage their concerns, to make them invisible again. Speaking in low tones, he makes it clear that he will carry out his threats.
The movie becomes a bit more standard after the plane lands in Miami. Part of the reason the film works is that the two characters are in the middle of a sea of people in a confined airplane chamber. Once the plane lands, their world expands and there are many other influences upon each of their actions. The finale is pretty standard for thrillers and less than spectacular, dragging the rest of the film down. But thankfully, this section is also very briskly paced and over quickly.
"Red Eye" suffers from a lackluster final 10 minutes, but it is still far above average for a film in this genre. Definitely worth a bargain matinee.