We’ve all been conditioned to fear the Saudi, the terrorist with the thick Middle Eastern accent and the half-crazed look in his eye. But what if we board a plane on a “red-eye” flight and the killer turns out to be a nice, slender, attractive, blue-eyed Anglo?
Wes Craven delivers a straight suspense movie, no tricks, nothing supernatural, not sci-fi. It’s the story line that propels this movie, and the stars do a nice job of taking us all for the ride.
Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is a hotel manager who’s so good at her job that she seems obsessed by it. She’s still answering calls from the office right up until the time she’s ready to board her plane. There’s a weather delay, and a nice young man (Cillian Murphy) at the bar offers her a drink, and even guesses her favorite. (That should have tipped her off, but she’s still oblivious at this point.) Then, when she boards the plane, she “coincidentally” finds herself sitting next to the very same guy, who’s attentive and witty and charming. She starts to relax around him.
But then he reveals himself as the devil in disguise. He wants her to use her influence at the hotel to move a certain guest to another room, and in exchange he will make the phone call that will protect her father from the assassin lurking in front of his house. (Yes, we’ve already established that she’s very close to her Dad, and therefore she would respond emotionally to this kind of extortion.) Lisa quickly figures out that the important guest at the hotel whom she’s supposed to move is in grave danger. But how to warn him, and his family? How to warn her Dad? The man produces Dad’s missing wallet, to prove that he means business, that he knows where he lives, and that he is not bluffing.
If you were stuck on an airplane in this situation, what would you do? The turbulence doesn’t help matters. He won’t let you excuse yourself, because he’ll follow you right in the lavatory to insure you’re not trying to send some kind of warning message. She unsuccessfully attempts to alert someone else to her predicament, but in the end, she is left to herself, and her own resources. That’s the frightening thing. Sure, when she does manage to create a scene long enough to run from the plane after it lands, there’s going to be a brief chase scene.
But this movie is not about car crashes, though there is one. It’s more about the nakedness of having to rely on your own guts and instincts when that is all you have.
Nobody gets naked in this film. There’s only a little mild profanity. There’s a minimum of personal violence (with no collateral damage). But “Red Eye” does manage to tell the story simply and directly enough to generate viewer empathy with this plucky innocent citizen. Usually, in this kind of stalker/slasher drama, the woman is weak, too frightened to effectively resist, or even secretly attracted to such craven power and control over another. But here, our heroine fights back, and at the end we all want to shout at the screen, “You go, girl!” and it’s then we realize that “Red Eye” could well evolve into that rarest of genres, the crossover suspense movie.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. When is it important to be able to lie? (see Genesis 27)
2. The motivation of the terrorist cell is never discussed. Why do you think people resort to this?
3. What do you fear about air travel?
4. If you thought you were saving your family, would you do something against your principles?
RON SALFEN is pastor of Westminster Church in Dallas, Texas.