Get ready for ‘Red Eye’

Andrew Hampp

“Don’t you ever tell me Wedding Crashers was better than Batman Begins again!” Cillian Murphy gets all up in Rachel McAdams’ face in Red Eye.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Few movie trailers this year could ever come close to the creepy simplicity of Wes Craven’s comeback film Red Eye.

The trailer begins as a romantic comedy of sorts, with the two leads Jackson (Cillian Murphy) and Lisa (Rachel McAdams) meeting by chance while waiting in line for a delayed flight to Miami. The two flirt over drinks at an airport Mexican restaurant and eventually discover their tickets have them seated right next to each other aboard their plane.

If Jackson and Lisa were played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the trailer would fast-forward at this point to their happy lives as neurotic bookstore owners or playfully bickering courtroom lawyers.

Instead, the trailer stays on the couple after this freak occurrence as Lisa asks Jackson what he does for a living. The camera hones in on Jackson’s shifty eyes, tinted with a devious red light, and lingers as he lifts his index finger to his mischievous lips to silence McAdams.

And that’s it.

Although subsequent trailers and TV commercials have since elaborated on the details of Jackson’s occupation and intentions, it’s best to watch Red Eye knowing as little as possible.

The movie is a straight-ahead, slasher-free thriller — a first for Wes Craven. While not as dramatic as the similarly themed Air Force One, Red Eye is still a satisfying summer movie, if not a terribly original one.

The film fares best during the moments of nervous chemistry between McAdams and Murphy, who both do superb jobs with their roles.

McAdams certainly makes the most of her first star turn, coming off as a more likable Ashley Judd, complete with a feisty ability to kick ass in the film’s final third. The much-hyped star of Mean Girls, The Notebook and Wedding Crashers shows she has range and chops to spare. Her engaging screen presence is what keeps the film alive during the sluggish midsection.

Cillian Murphy goes two-for-two this summer in the Seriously Creepy Villain department, having sent shivers up many audience’s spines two months ago as Scarecrow in Batman Begins. Seriously, the guy could basically build a career playing unsettling weirdoes intent on feeding off other people’s fears.

The Irish actor puts his expressive, untrustworthy eyes to great use here, giving previous Craven-movie villains like Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich a serious run for their money.

It’s particularly great to see Craven directing a decent movie for a change, following the disappointing Scream 3 and last February’s downright miserable Cursed. He lends a tense, confrontational vibe reminiscent of Scream to his airplane scenes between the two leads and is especially back in his element when directing a thrilling showdown between the two characters.

I won’t give away too much more about Red Eye’s plot, but since the ads have already done so, I shouldn’t be ruining anything by saying it involves Lisa’s father (Brian Cox) and the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (Jack Scalia). No fair telling anything else, though — it would spoil the few inspired thrills the movie has to offer.

Red Eye may never fully deliver on the promise of its truly great teaser trailer, but it’s still a minor triumph for all parties involved.

For McAdams, it’s a perfect first step into leading lady-dom, something she’ll likely be dealing with even more now that she’s one of the next in line to inherit the soon-to-retire Julia Roberts’ throne.

For Murphy, it’s proof that the one-time star of 28 Days Later can be just as scary as the zombies who terrorized him two short years ago.

And for Craven, it’s a hopeful sign of new and exciting things to come from a director who can successfully direct outside of his established genre of slash-and-run.

Red Eye is just like the airplane peanuts its characters are served — surprisingly appetizing and substantial enough to tide you over for a good 90 minutes.

Contact Pop Arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].