The biggest scream of them all.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Wes Craven has over the years dished up a full buffet of scares, from his "Nightmare" films to the recent Scream. In Red-Eye he takes on the biggest scream of them all, homeland invasion, albeit on a small figurative scale, but scary nevertheless. Although half the horror occurs again in the home (After all he's been depicting those invasions before they morphed into a 9/11 reality), the other half is in a plane, where most of us fear the worst despite the favorable survival statistics.
Lisa (Rachel McAdams) meets charming Jackson (Cillian Murphy) on a red-eye flight back from her grandmother's funeral. He is an operative who threatens her father's life (the always interesting Brian Cox) if she does not help them murder the deputy secretary of Homeland Security and his family by using her influence at the hotel where they're staying. The plane serves well Craven's need to create a helpless, claustrophobic atmosphere. However unlike many of his slasher movies, Red Eye relies a great deal on wit for the heroine to extricate herself with a modicum of good luck, fortunate coincidences, and conveniently found weapons.
More importantly, Craven emphasizes the vulnerability of ordinary citizens to invasion, either of personal space, home, or country for that matter. Lisa, invaded by a rapist a few years ago, carries the scar from the knife he held on her chest and seems loath to let violation happen again. As always in Craven's world, the heroine might enjoy moments of revenge even as the superior male calls most of the shots. No doubt Craven would like us to enjoy the danger without grand thematic statements, but the fact that his heroine in Red-Eye is a liberated woman who can kick butt is a relatively new turn on the old teary eyed damsel in distress motif. As Nietzsche said, "In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is."
Craven has it both ways: terror and feminism. For that modernism he deserves a place in the ranks of great directors who make great B movies.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com