Stuck in a Dallas airport on the way back to her busy life in Miami, Lisa (Rachel McAdams, "Wedding Crashers") strikes up a conversation with friendly Jackson (Cillian Murphy, "Batman Begins"), who keeps running into her during their delayed-flight hell. Oddly ending up sitting together on the plane, Lisa finds herself charmed by Jackson, and relaxed around him. However, that all changes when Jackson reveals his true intentions toward Lisa, leaving the terrified young woman stuck on an airplane with no one to turn to and nowhere to go.
Wes Craven started out the year helming the wretched werewolf debacle "Cursed," a film that lived up to its title in every facet of production. Looking to strip-down to the basics and return to his suspense roots, Craven elected to make "Red Eye" (IMDb listing). A rock-em, sock-em, deliriously fantastic wedge of pop thriller, "Red Eye" cleanses Craven's past sins away, at least for the time being.
Taking away the luxury of locations and multiple characters, "Red Eye" gives Craven almost nothing to work with. It's a film centered around two characters chatting and threatening for 80 minutes, with only occasional gasps of air for plot and action. In fact, the majority of the film is set in the two seats Lisa and Jackson occupy on the airplane. What could be a directorial nightmare for many is the ultimate challenge to Craven, and with his best B-movie instincts fully engaged, the uneven filmmaker finds a pulse to the picture right away, indulging in the nail-biting cinema basics of anxiety and thrills. After a simple 20-minute start that arranges the pawns on the game board, Craven quickly lets the film rip, and it careens wildly, tossing the audience around with insane logic jumps and tightly edited suspense set pieces. It comes together beautifully because Craven acknowledges the simplicity of the piece, and enjoys the cleanly cut thrills he's designed without fear of third-act obesity, or a studio that demands more bang for the buck. "Red Eye" is a simple, heart-thumping ride, and agreeably straight to the point.
For "Red Eye" to truly succeed, it needs two actors that the camera can be alone with, relying on the performers to create tension in tight spaces and initial chemistry to set the plot in motion. Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are the two sensational actors given this heady task, and they play off Craven's vision well. Both performers give themselves over to the momentum of the film, efficiently selling the peril of the moment, and indulging the eventual extravagant payoffs. Normally, a guilty pleasure like this is a pit stop on the road to fame, yet both McAdams and Murphy commit to the material as they would Shakespeare, encouraging the film with a palpable sense of danger the screenplay can't always articulate.
Truth be told, "Red Eye" isn't for every taste; those with an obsession for reality in their thrillers will be pulling their hair out over some the whoppers Craven and screenwriter Carl Ellsworth put up on the screen. Logic isn't the film's strong suit either and, at times, the picture reminded me of the loopy 2001 actioner, "Swordfish," which also found delight and profound entertainment in its suspension-of-disbelief bravado. "Red Eye" is a wet, heavy wave of spellbinding entertainment, and if you can give yourself over to the momentum of the mood, the bodysurf back to shore is sublime.
Filmfodder Grade: A