‘Eye’ good, but nothing new

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The good thing about &uot;Red Eye&uot; is that it’s a decent enough effort by all involved. The bad thing is that it’s come out about once a year for the past few decades.

Rachel McAdams, whose turn in this and &uot;Wedding Crashers&uot; have her on the fast road to stardom, is Lisa, a hotel executive on her way back to Miami from Texas after her grandmother’s funeral. At the airport, she meets the seemingly charming Jackson, played by &uot;28 Days Later&uot;’s Cillian Murphy, which I herby nominate as a front-runner in the &uot;Best Name in Hollywood&uot; race.

After the characters get acquainted, which takes quite a few scenes longer than it should, they’re onboard, and that’s when Jackson (and by the way, don’t call him Jack, for reasons the flick makes hilariously clear) reveals his true nature: he’s an assassin, and has been stalking Lisa for months. A government official is about to stay at Lisa’s hotel, and Jackson wants his room switched – or he’ll have Lisa’s father killed.

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From here, the tension builds like a faucet slowly filling a bucket. Horrormeister Wes Craven, who swore off horror after the last part of the &uot;Scream&uot; trilogy and made a ill-fated attempt to get back there with the godawful &uot;Cursed,&uot; shows that he doesn’t need blood and gore, or even a great deal of violence, to create an effective thriller. Lisa and Jackson play a cat-and-mouse game on the plane – the fact that no one else there really knows what’s going on is realistic without reaching contrived. Both Adams and Murphy get their feelings across without much voice raising or emotional actions, and Craven nails just about every shot. Murphy, whose eyes seem to get darker as the film goes on, doesn’t have the over-the-top extroversion that Freddy Kruger and the &uot;Scream&uot; killers had, but he goes into evil mode without letting us know the gear’s been shifted.

Unfortunately, once the plane lands, the film goes into overdrive – the scene with the blue pen is the signal that things are about get crazy – and it ends far too fast. It’s like the film wants to make up for the time it lost during the first third, which doesn’t work as well as the time on the plane did.

Films like this have ranged from the outstanding, like &uot;Air Force One,&uot; to the decent, like &uot;Passenger 57&uot; to the oh-lord-why-did-I-pay-$8.50-for-that, like &uot;Turbulence.&uot; &uot;Red Eye&uot; ends up between &uot;Air&uot; and &uot;57&uot; because its effective for what it is – just nothing new (and remember, Jodie Foster’s &uot;Flightplan&uot; will be here in three weeks anyway).

&uot;Red Eye&uot; is worth a watch. It’s just not the type of film to &uot;re-watch.&uot;

Grade: B