Red Eye had the misfortune of being the film in last year’s “Hitchcockian thriller set aboard a jetliner” sweepstakes that didn’t star Jodie Foster. I haven’t seen Flightplan yet, so I can’t say which one was actually better, but that film will have to work hard to be as effective and efficient a thriller as Red Eye.
The set up is sleek and economic. Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) has arranged to be seated next to Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), a hotel manager returning to Miami after her grandmother’s funeral. His proposition is simple. Move the deputy secretary of Homeland Security (Jack Scalia) to different room where he can be easily assassinated or his men will kill Lisa’s father (Brian Cox).
The plot to kill the deputy secretary is a classic Hitchcockian MacGuffin. We are never really told who the assassins are or why they want him dead, merely that they do. For this film that’s enough, because the focus is on Lisa and her predicament. She’s trapped next to this nut job and she can’t tell anyone. This situation limits much of the film to one very specific location, two seats on a widebody jet. The camera does wander around the jet a little but the geography of the second act is still very restricted. Director Wes Craven does a good job keeping the images on screen from becoming monotonous.
It’s good that Lisa’s situation and the tense interchange between her and Rippner are involving enough to hold our attention, because the plot falls apart on a logical level if you think to hard about to. It’s as if the terrorists got together and said “What’s the most complicated, least efficient, lowest-percentage way we can find to rub this guy out?”
The conclusion of the film leads to a pretty standard, by-the-numbers thriller ending. This film only takes flight when the two main characters are in the airport or on the airplane. For that reason, this film is recommended as a decent rental but I’m glad I didn’t pay movie theater prices to see it.