I am enjoying the recent string of thriller/horror films I have been encountering, in so much as quite a few have proven to be rather incredible pieces of social commentary and genuinely enjoyable genre works. More so, viewing quite a few of the movies have been in an attempt to expand my film consumption to more middle-of-the-road works that I had dismissed upon initial release based on either their trailer or assumedly lackluster premise. Red Eye was certainly a movie that I scoffed at upon its initial introduction, a vague trailer about plane hijacking and a then unknown to me actor named Cillian Murphy simply did not prove enough to make a, then film illiterate, teen venture to undertake the film. However, as I have come to appreciate both the theoretical approaches, as well as the means by which films are created, I must admit that I was quite enthralled by Wes Craven's surprisingly non-violent horror film. To be honest, it is nowhere near a perfect film and certainly suffers from some wishy-washy performances, mostly on the part of Rachel McAdams and clearly has some plot gaps in an effort to make it a quick fix thriller, but the creation of tension within a small amount of space for more than a half of the film. I have also been quite unfamiliar with how to conceptualize what is becoming an extensive field of post-9/11 cinema discussions, most of which center on disaster and horror films, Cloverfield being perhaps the most notable example. I mean to say that as a film Red Eye works in the collective memory of viewers who have a particular concern for depictions of terrorist attacks, especially those centered around flying. Of course this is not the only extent to which something exists within the post-9/11 framework, but I will elaborate on that in a bit. Regardless of how one discusses Red Eye theoretically or critically, it is nearly impossible to discount how solid of a thriller it proves to be by combining some of the traditional methods of horror/thriller filmmaking along with just enough of an espionage twist to provide for a film that is as fresh now as it was almost a decade earlier.
Red Eye begins with the act of a wallet unassumingly being moved from a dresser drawer, quite ineffectually, before viewers are introduced to Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) a headstrong hotel manager, who knows the ins-and-outs of working in the customer service industry so much so that she is able to guide her seemingly inept employee through dealing with particularly unruly customers while also reeling in the emotions from recently attending her grandmothers funeral. Meanwhile Lisa is subject to the constant inquiries and concerns of her loving father Joe (Brian Cox) as he knows she is under heavy amounts of stress both from her recent loss, as well as the preparing for a big name political guest. The addition of plane delays only add to her headache and all seems quite set for a spiral into emotional insanity, until a man named Jack (Cillian Murphy) appears. Jack's natural charm and seeming ability to predict Lisa's every concern and hesitation causes her to spring at the opportunity to seek solace in his lack of frustration. While they simply share a bit of chatter over drinks at the airport bar, it is not until Lisa realizes that they will be sitting next to one another on the flight that she feels the connection to be more than a coincidence. Jack continues his charm well onto their flight, but once they reach an altitude were landing is out of the question, Jack's persona takes a dark turn as he reveals that he has been stalking Lisa in order to blackmail her into moving the high profile guest into another room of her apartment allowing his fellow hired hands to kill him for big name clients. The narrative then moves into Lisa and Jack's battle for the safety of the guest, as well as Lisa's father who is being carefully watched by another hitman prepared to kill him if she fails to adhere to Jack's demands. Quick wits and determination allow for Lisa to escape from Jack when the plane lands, as well as allowing for her guest to avoid death, but she is not free of Jack quite yet as his desire to succeed at his job is superseded by revenge, although with the help of her father, Lisa is able to get the best of the insane man and return to her job, however, her ways of dealing with unruly customers are certifiably different.
What then makes Red Eye a specifically post-9/11 thriller aside from the obvious ties to airplanes and the threat of political terrorism, well, in order, to really conceptualize this we must first consider how Craven formulates characters within the narrative, primarily Lisa who is the protagonist within Red Eye. It is no accident that she is returning from a funeral at the films beginning a indirect reminder of the deaths occurring on that tragic day, yet she is also attached to various psychiatric consultations and forms of depression, initially suggested by her father and reaffirmed by Jack who mentions her relationship with psychiatrist, while not directly mentioned this could have a post-traumatic element about it, in so much as it is a character attempting to deal with the irrationalities of her existence against an illogical humanity that could in her case be so cold and distancing, but also so inhumane as to blow up buildings. The various persons on the plane as well as some of her hotel's customers help to reconsider the face of America in the wake of the terrorist attacks, particularly the means by which frustration, paranoia and a general concern for escapism emerge within the parts of the narrative focusing on the airport and the airplane. Hell, even the flight attendants make comments about their self-identies and their projected social identity with heavy post-9/11 implications. However, the largest element that can be drawn from this ideology emerges through the reasons for Jack's violent actions, for a better portion of the film they revolve around financial gain, although even he is unsure why a political figure would need to be murdered, he simply understands there is profit to be made in volunteering to assure its execution. The factual nature of the desired acts, without a theoretical framework for doing so certainly emerges within a post-9/11 discourse considering that America was well aware that they needed to exact revenge upon their wrong doers, yet were not sure of were exactly to do so, nor how to best achieve this, leading to a series of financially heavy actions with a mixed bag of results. Finally, it is no accident that the attempted assassination is directed at a whole family, invoking an American ideal in the process, not to mention the Russian mercenaries engaging in said assassination attempt, using a RPG of all things. I have yet to do any formal research on post-9/11 film theory, as I am sure this post shows, but I just wanted to conceptualize some of its points as they seemed fit to Red Eye in a multitude of ways.
Key Scene: The tension in the power outage scene on the airplane is palpable and certainly not the only emotionally heavy moment in the film, which again relies so little on heavy violence to get viewers anticipations heightened.
This is a cheap pickup on DVD and at the moment no bluray appears to exist, nonetheless, it is a solid fixture in any collection, either well-established or burgeoning, and like so many reviews seem to agree, do not trust the trailer for this film, it completely fails to sell what your really receive with this excellent work.