Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox
Director: Wes Craven
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Dreamworks
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: January 10, 2006


Film ***1/2

When you hear the name Wes Craven, you are more than likely to associate it with the horror genre. After all, Craven was nothing short of an innovator. His first film, 1972’s Last House on the Left, is still one of the most terrifying films ever made, and he’s managed to make two of the genre’s most popular films, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.

With Red Eye, Craven gets to shy away from the extremes of the horror genre and indulge in the psychological thriller. The result a relentless nail-biter that produces more jolts in an 85 minute running time than most do in two hours. It’s something the likes of Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of, and who better than Craven to channel a filmmaker such as Hitchcock?

Craven mixes in elements of a great popcorn thriller with a touch of political intrigue. As the movie opens, hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is trying to make her flight from Texas to Florida. Thanks to extreme weather issues, the flight is delayed. With no other option, she grabs a seat on the next red eye flight to Miami, where she can be there for her recently deceased Grandmother’s funeral.

While stuck at the airport, she meets a charming stranger named Jackson Ripner (Cillian Murphy). He jumps to her defense during an argument with an unruly delayed passenger, and the two seem to cross each others path while stranded at the airport. They enjoy a cocktail and share a good conversation until time to board the plane.

Much to Lisa’s surprise, she finds the same charmer seated right next to her on the new flight. By this point, Lisa might be considering the possibilities of fate concerning this new man in her life. But we soon learn, as the plane is in the air, that nothing could be further from the truth. Jackson has crossed her path for a reason, and not a good one.

It turns out, Jackson is a representative of a sinister shadow group that specializes in political assassinations. He needs Lisa’s full cooperation in the assistance of offing a political figure. If she doesn’t, he’ll have her father (Brian Cox) killed with nothing more than a phone call.

What follows is a subtle game of cat and mouse, as Lisa attempts to do whatever she can to thwart the situation. But Jackson, a creeping menace, isn’t too easy to fool. By a certain point, it seems as though she will have no choice but to go through with her captor’s demands.

Craven’s execution of this material couldn’t be more riveting. From minute one, Red Eye has you hooked and it doesn’t dare to let go until the end. Once the plane is in the air, and Lisa realizes what she’s involved with, the intensity only grows further.

And without revealing what happens, the final 30 minutes of the movie is, without question, one of the most heart-thumping, pulse-pounding moments of suspense ever to be shown in a single movie. Every once in a while, you shouldn’t let a PG-13 rating fool you. Craven pushes the rating to its limits with some serious white knuckle jolts.

The movie serves as a huge door opening for its two stars on the rise. This is Rachel McAdams’ first headlining role in the wake of strong supporting work in Mean Girls and Wedding Crashers. She is something of a knockout, in more ways than one. You believe her in the role at a hundred percent, especially when during the physical demanding final act. In short, McAdams has solidified herself as a prominent leading lady.

And Cillian Murphy, hot off his sinister supporting role in Batman Begins, turns in yet another memorable sinister performance. Murphy delivers in the role that James Spader may have played in the late 80s, early 90s. The dual act of being the suave charmer and diabolical creep is something Murphy pulls off seamlessly. And trust me when I say that he will still be haunting you way after the movie, thanks to an added Craven touch his character is given in the end.

Though it may stand out a bit on Wes Craven’s resume, Red Eye is quite simply one of the director’s finest achievements to date. It’s not a horror movie, but Craven uses style, pacing, and even a touch of claustrophobia to create a feeling of true cinematic suspense. Just as he did the horror genre, Craven has mastered the genre of suspense with this tight thriller.

Video ****

Dreamworks delivers another top flight looking disc with this marvelous presentation. The anamorphic picture is nothing but sharp and crisp quality. A great deal of the movie takes place in a plane cabin with limited lighting, and still this presentation makes the most of it with a picture resonating in nothing but high clarity. The sequences in and around the plane result in amazing image detail and display of colors. A first rate presentation! A full screen version is available separately, but you shouldn’t even bother with it as you will definitely lose a great deal of visual impact.

Audio ****

Sound is a key element in a thriller, and Dreamworks took big notice of that with this stunning 5.1 mix. Everything from Marco Beltrami’s brilliantly thrilling score, to the various set pieces (including even that of the plane cabin) allow for some outstanding moments of surround sound and dynamic range. And when the last half hour of the movie kicks in, your sound system will deliver the ultimate goods. Incredible all the way.

Features ***

Some nice extras, starting off with a commentary from Wes Craven, which is a very fine and informative listen. Also featured are well handled featurettes; “Making a Thriller at 30, 000 Feet: The Making of Red Eye” and “Wes Craven: The Master of Suspense”, as well as a gag reel and bonus previews.


If you’re looking for a pure jolt of fast-paced suspense, Red Eye is your ticket, indeed. Wes Craven proves that he can deliver the terrifying goods to the suspense genre, in addition to horror, and delivers what is unquestionably one of the best thrillers of recent memory. Sit back, buckle up and enjoy!

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