Hippo Manchester
August 25, 2005

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Red Eye (R)
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.