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Red Eye (9/10)

by Tony Medley

As important as it is to be a good actor, it’s equally important to be able to pick good projects. Diane Lane is beautiful and probably a good actress, but most of the films she has chosen to make have been mediocre, at best.

That’s why it’s such a pleasure to watch the career of Rachel McAdams develop. She is beautiful and a terrific actress, but buttressing her career are the choices she has made. Her last three films, “Mean Girls,” “The Notebook,” and “Wedding Crashers” have all had good scripts, good directors, and have been successful.

Now we see her in a taut, captivating, realistic thriller, reminiscent of the best days of Hollywood. In addition to McAdams, the film has Cillian Murphy, who is even more delightfully evil than he was in “Batman Begins,” director Wes Craven, better known as the wildly successful director of horror films, and a well-crafted script by Carl Ellsworth. Even better, “Red Eye” comes in at slightly under 90 minutes. This film would fit in well in Hollywood’s Golden Era, which ended in the ‘50s with the demise of the Studio System, after which the lunatics truly did take over the asylum, which led to the dismal offerings moviegoers are given today.

Lisa (McAdams), an executive with a large Florida hotel, boards a late night flight and finds herself sitting next to Rippner (Murphy), who seems a nice young man. Thus begins her claustrophobic nightmare. Craven is better known as a director of scary horror movies. This is his first foray into the thriller genre, and it’s a smashing debut. One thing I liked about it is that there isn’t one minute that could be cut from the final film. Craven tells his story and gets out, unlike other directors who just film and film and film and can’t bear to cut anything.

As with “Phone Booth” last year, which was so good because of Colin Farrell’s performance, this film rises and falls on McAdams’ performance, and she comes through with a tour de force. She’s a woman trapped in a nightmare and she acts it out with her facial expressions, which is about all we see since most of the film has her sitting in a window seat on an airplane. . She has proven adept at comedy (“Mean Girls” and “Wedding Crashers”), romance (“The Notebook”), and now a thriller. I thought she should have had an Oscar last year for “The Notebook,” and, so far, this is the best performance by an actress that I’ve seen in 2005.

Rippner is a delicious sociopath. Murphy portrayed a similar role in “Batman Begins,” with similar effects. He has such a little boy face that he is a terrific bad guy. For my money, this is one of the most entertaining films of the year.

August 16, 2005