|'The entire middle act assuredly belongs Murphy, and the film is all the better for it'.|
In many ways a fairly by the numbers aeroplane-based thriller, Red Eye is elevated from its unremarkable foundations just enough by the performances from the lead trio and Wes Craven's presence in the director's chair.
Her star still on the rise at the time of Red Eye's release, Rachel McAdams' performance in the lead as hotel manager Lisa in retrospect remains one of her most consistent. McAdams' job for most of the running time is to be an ordinary young woman reacting to the extraordinary circumstances in which she finds herself, and that's exactly what the actress provides throughout. Brian Cox meanwhile brings pleasing reliability to perhaps the least demanding role of the veteran actor's career as Lisa's father, a part which largely involves answering the telephone and sitting in a comfortable chair.
It's Cillian Murphy, however, who is by far most memorable, delivering a consistently strong turn that was undeniably overshadowed back in 2005 by the actor's acclaimed performance in Breakfast On Pluto and his breakout role in Batman Begins. Murphy builds the unsettling nature of Jackson Rippner with impressive subtlety during the first act, before stepping matters up considerably during the overnight flight. Jackson could easily have become something of a pantomime villain, a pitfall the actor skilfully avoids for the majority of the film; as such, the entire middle act assuredly belongs Murphy, and the film is all the better for it.
Behind the camera, this may not be Craven's best directorial work, but it's certainly a long way from his worst. The screenplay from Carl Ellsworth rarely ventures beyond safely tried and tested thriller concepts, but the tight and assured horror style Craven brings to Red Eye helps to make his film stand out a little more from other entries into the thriller genre. With a slender running time of under ninety minutes, Craven perhaps spends too long setting things up in the opening act before transferring to the strongest scenes which take place on the plane, but once we're there the director never allows the pace or tension to drop until the end.
The final act feels like both Craven and Ellsworth running out of ideas, falling back on a Scream-alike house-based chase that swaps the subtle energy of the second act for more straightforward modern horror fare. Whilst this means matters wrap up at the point where Red Eye arguably becomes least convincing, the director and his cast have already done enough by this stage to make this a satisfyingly watchable throwaway thriller.