Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Movie: Red Eye (2005)

At last. A summer movie I can call my own.

Wes Craven forsakes horror for straight, almost Hitchcockian suspense. He keeps the action uncluttered; much of the movie consists of two people speaking quietly onboard an airplane. And a real airplane at that. Cramped, uncomfortable, complete with screaming babies and fat men wedged behind tray tables.

He casts phenomenally well, too, relying on relative newcomers Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy to carry the day.

Rosemarie, giddy when the movie was over, described it as “a feminist thriller about heroic competence.” And she’s right. The only reason good has a fighting chance against evil is that the film’s many women characters, from McAdams to her nervous assistant to the flight’s lead stewardess, know their jobs and do them well.

No one’s on their game more than Craven, who directs the film – and conducts the audience – with masterly skill. It’s the most fun I’ve had at a theater since last summer’s smart popcorn thriller CELLULAR.

To my surprise, the movie is racking up positive reviews. But there’s a curiously defensive tone to many of them. A well-told story is a well-told story, regardless of genre. So why does Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek, in praising RED EYE’s “dazzling obviousness,” say it “will have you jumping out of your seat on cue. And is that really so bad?” Then there’s this from the Toronto Globe & Mail:

Sitting through RED EYE is like watching a master carpenter at work on a custom bookcase. No one would call the result art, but you’re sure bound to admire the sheer craft of the thing.

Why do reviews contain this kind of depressing nonsense? Is it because Hollywood turns out so much crap that critics don’t know how to respond when they come across a piece of genuine entertainment? Or has film criticism fallen to such a lowly state that anything that delivers on its promise of old-fashioned thrills can only be seen as guilty pleasure?

The correct answer, I fear, may be C. All of the above.