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Wes Craven takes a cue from Hitchcock aboard the Red Eye.

Murphy and McAdams are not quite what they seem -- and neither is this Wes Craven outing.
  • Murphy and McAdams are not quite what they seem -- and neither is this Wes Craven outing.
Red Eye may not seem to be your typical Wes Craven movie. It's not really horror, there are no marketable monsters, and unlike Cursed, Scream 3, and other recent Craven offerings, it's actually an enjoyable time at the movies.

But heroine Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is very much in the mold of the traditional "Craven girl." Like Sidney (Neve Campbell) in the Scream saga and Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in the Elm Street movies, Lisa has dark hair, big teeth, the heretofore unknown ability to kick ass when the situation calls for it, and a dangerously intelligent adversary, who nonetheless manages to be arrogant enough to underestimate his prey. It doesn't hurt that the script comes from Carl Ellsworth, a former writer for Buffy, Xena, and Cleopatra 2525.

Like so many Craven girls, Lisa apparently has no time for a boyfriend; she's a workaholic, constantly making arrangements via cell phone for the hotel she manages. When she gets into an argument with a rude fellow traveler at the airport, another passenger by the name of Jackson (Cillian Murphy) comes in on her side. Later, she joins him for a drink at the bar.

Jackson's full name is "Jackson Rippner" -- a joke so obvious, it's deliberately mentioned, as well as a piece of foreshadowing for those who didn't see Murphy play the Scarecrow in Batman Begins. Soon enough, Jackson and Lisa are sitting side by side on the plane, when that coolness and those icy good looks of his turn from charming to menacing. He reveals that their meeting was no coincidence; that her father (Brian Cox) is under surveillance by an associate ready to shoot him at a moment's notice, and that in order to prevent this, she must call her hotel and change the reservation for the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (Jack Scalia) and his family from his usual suite to another room, where, presumably, an assassination will be arranged.

It looks as if Craven has been studying his Alfred Hitchcock movies. Much to the credit of all involved with Red Eye, the bulk of the movie is taut, compelling, and consists simply of two people talking to each other. None of Lisa's stalling tactics seem entirely unbelievable, and in fact, most of them don't work. Thankfully, this is not one of those movies where the characters go into the luggage hold and the cockpit and all those other nooks and crannies of the plane; these passengers are as confined as you or I would be in similar circumstances.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for what happens when the plane lands. Don't worry, no spoiling details here -- the trailer seems to have taken care of that -- but the movie becomes more of a traditional actioner at that point, with Lisa and Jackson eventually doing things that regular humans cannot do. The movie's still fun, but a different kind of fun. At 85 minutes, it's also too short to really give you time to worry about nitpicking until several hours afterward.

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