Tuesday, January 10, 2006

 

Hitchcockian Flight

I just watched Red Eye, from director Wes Craven (who proves here, once and for all, he should not be pigeon-holed in the horror film genre), and several things came to mind. First, it was a perfect Hitchcockian thriller, and told exactly as Hitchcock would have told it, if he were working today (right down to the powerful overhead shot in the tiny airplane bathroom). The story is tight, driven by intelligent characters, and does not rely on flashy effects of overblown set pieces to move it along. Secondly, like Hitchcock's films, Red Eye has a beautiful, but resourceful, heroine (think Grace Kelly in Rear Window) and an intelligent and approachable villain (do you remember Shadow of a Doubt?). Rachel McAdams (who plays Lisa Reisert) may in fact be the heir to Grace Kelly's throne. Not only is she an incredibly beautiful woman, she shows equally incredible talent at such a young age (she turns 30 this year). She's prolific, but makes great choices. Red Eye is one of three films in 2005 alone (the others being, The Family Stone and Wedding Crashers). In 2004, she starred in both The Notebook and Mean Girls. I would be shocked if an Oscar is not in her hands within the next five years. Here, she plays her role in a pleated skirt and silky white blouse, and manages to balance feminine grace with emotional acumen and primal resourcefulness. It's a wonderfully riveting performance, and stands at the center of what is essentially a two-person film. The other person, actor Cillian Murphy (who also turns 30 in 2006), has amassed quite a resume himself (28 Days Later, Cold Mountain, Girl with the Pearl Earring) proving, rather quickly, he is a talent worth watching, as well. Earlier in 2005, in Batman Begins, he turned the Batman villain Scarecrow into a believable entity. Here, he molds Jackson Rippner into a villain with even greater depth, a man you sense has chosen his profession, and now is trapped within it. Like all great Hitchcock films, Red Eye puts ordinary people in the midst of a situation much larger than themselves. Watching them maneuver their way through it has always created the greatest suspense in cinema. Working from the script by first-time screenwriter Carl Ellsworth, Craven shows he understands that here. Red Eye will have me seeking out the next films from McAdams and Murphy and also leaves me hoping Craven will follow this path, put Freddy behind him, and, like Clint Eastwood, begin to build a laudable body of work in the third act in his career. If you are a fan of Hitchcock’s films (or, the best of Craven's earlier work), you should buy Red Eye for your DVD collection. It's worth watching, repeatedly.

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