How desperate are we for a little inoffensive escapism when all the critics start falling over themselves trying to find the right adjectives to praise Wes Craven’s booger-sized “thriller” Red-Eye? Have we really expected this “master of suspense” to have suddenly grown either a brain or an aesthetic in constructing his latest two-fister (or should we say thumb-twiddler)? How low can we go this summer?
It’s “tight,” “expertly crafted,” and “chilling.” Nonsense. Critics are just so pleased to nestle their tooshes for a scant 80 minutes because they know the Angelopoulos screening comes directly after. Truth is, Craven finds it difficult to make even those 80 minutes compelling: It’s an unsurprisingly spineless affair, with murky, laughable political undertones that are about as convincingly “real world” as Craven’s Music of the Heart was palpably inner-city. I’ve read about seven different reviewers refer to its “expertly choreographed” claustrophobic two-seat set as “Hitchcockian,” daring even to invoke Rear Window. Truth is, the alarmingly un-tense plane stuff, weighted down by one of the most ludicrous political assassination plots ever to burden a “nifty little thriller,” takes up about half, if not less, of the film’s running time; Craven runs out of visual ideas for his simple coach-class tableau after about ten of those. It soon devolves into a particularly risible chase movie, fashioned after the final 20 minutes of Craven’s own genre-destroying Scream. As a friend said, Craven really just likes to watch skinny white guys trip over chairs.
Kudos, though, to Cillian Murphy’s post-tracheotomy addition to his wardrobe: a deliciously scarlet ascot that had me chuckling till the sun came up—which incidentally is when the oft-referred to “Comedy Marathon” (imagine your own boings and gagonks) that Brian Cox’s Dad was exercising his eyelids all night to watch would end. With his floppy hair, bee-stung lips, and pot-haze eyes, Murphy is our first Britpop villain, and about as intimidating as Blur’s Damon Albarn hopped up on Pop Rocks and Mountain Dew.
Hey, I’m all for a sturdy little white-knuckler as much as the next sensation-starved cinephile layabout, but Red-Eye requires far too many nose-scrunching stares of incredulity to get truly lost in. As preposterous as the slightly overappreciated Collateral but without that film’s intriguing sense of real mortality, Craven’s film might work as a cable knock-off. I guess for those pining for a renaissance of mid-Nineties psycho thrillers like Unlawful Entry or Fear it could provide momentary diversion—but is that truly what we’re reduced to longing for? Fine, I’ll play along, here’s my blurb:
“Wes Craven’s RED-EYE is a nifty, knock-em-dead hand-wringer. Hold your popcorn tight—there hasn’t been a thriller like this since Ray Liotta’s Turbulence!”