August 25, 2005
by Amy Diaz
Rachel McAdams has a
really bad flight (then again, who doesn’t these days) in the silly,
improbable horror movie Red Eye.
Improbable because none
of the events of the story makes much sense, and improbable because I
don’t quite understand the appeal of McAdams. Pretty? Sure. She was
lovely in The Notebook, a thoroughly gag-inducing romance, and she’s
quite pretty as a terrified hostage here. But, with the exception of her
role as the bitchiest of bitchy popular teens in Mean Girls, I’ve never
exactly seen the It that’s made McAdams the current It girl.
Perhaps it’s her
ability to be less interesting than her male costars — they usually have
more interesting parts, so why not let them steal the show? In Red Eye,
for example, what could be more magnetically attention-demanding than
Cillian Murphy as Jackson Rippner. He first comes to our attention as he
meets a harried Lisa (McAdams) as she stands in line to get checked in
to her delayed red-eye flight from Houston to Miami. The delays not only
give us time for a little back story on Lisa (her dad’s a worrywart, she
has a scar from some sort of violent event) but the extra time in the
terminal also gives Jackson and Lisa a chance to meet and engage in some
light flirting. She’s therefore somewhat pleasantly surprised when she
finds herself sitting next to the bright-blue-eyed boy once on the
plane. Jackson is a charmer, helping other passengers with their luggage
and helping her get over her take-off-turbulence nerves.
Soon, however, Lisa
realizes that all this charm had a purpose. Jackson, as it turns out, is
actually some sort of professional “convincer.” His job, for example,
with Lisa is to convince her (via threats to her father’s life and her
own safety) to move a Homeland Security official from one suite in the
hotel Lisa manages to another.
Back to the world of
the improbable: (a) are we really to believe that a vast, well-funded
conspiracy picked something as big and fraught with uncertainty as
holding a woman hostage on an airplane as the best way to take out a US
official and (b) are we to believe that terrorists really care all that
much about some deputy secretary?
But, you know, whatever
— why let logic cloud a nice little thriller? And if you can keep logic
out of it — from the premise to the way in which Jackson attempts to
manipulate Lisa to the explosiontastic ending — you might have a chance
at enjoying, as disposable entertainment, most of Red Eye. There are
nice moments of tension and gamesmanship between Jackson and Lisa on the
plane — two people quietly trying to outwit each other. But naturally,
the action can’t stay on the plane forever, and when it leaves so does
the movie’s best feature. Murphy makes a good villain with his giant
blue eyes but when the action moves from cerebral to physical, his
120-pounds-wet physique seems a little less imposing.
Red Eye is not a bad
film and definitely benefits when it leaves the action small and
intimate. If only the movie had resisted the urge to make either the
action or the plot big and kept the story on the level of two people and
the very close confines of an airplane — but then, such restraint would
have been improbable too.