Year Released: 2005
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays
(PG-13, 85 min.)
"Man forgives woman anything save the wit to outwit him." Minna Antrim
No big names, no glitzy promos, just a bit of skin prickling to get through the dog days of August. Surprise! Red Eye delivers everything the high profile thrillers promised without the pouty stars and their tabloid lives.
Although after his riveting performances, first as the more-crazy-than-his-patients doc in Batman Begins, and now as the mercurial Jackson Ripner in this feature, you can bet on hearing more and more about male lead Cillian Murphy. And Rachel McAdams is no slouch either. She has the same determined focus as look alike Jennifer Garner of TV’s Alias fame, just slightly softer and more vulnerable. In fact, it is the chemistry of these leads, the complexity of their characters, and a credible script that allows them to show their stuff that elevates this summer thriller to one that will be remembered well into fall.
We gain a glimpse of Lisa Reisert’s (McAdams) take-charge efficiency and coolness under fire while she scrambles to catch her flight to Miami. As she negotiates her way through a slapdash taxi ride, and a crammed as usual DFW airport, Lisa fields a frantic phone call from her novice stand-in hotel manager as well one from her beloved dad, a guy who creates more worries by worrying on her behalf. She cajoles both of them, gracefully shrugs off a bath of spilled latte, and gets in line just in time to find her flight delayed.
With time on her hands, Lisa reluctantly takes up the offer of fellow passenger Jackson Ripner (Murphy) to wile away the delay at his favorite airport TexMex bar. He has an androgynous Beatles mop of hair, impish blue eyes and a charm that he lays on thick enough to quell any intuitive goose pimples he none-the-less inspires. It is with that blend of Ted Bundy creepy charm that he is almost right in guessing Lisa’s preferred poison, a Sea Breeze – vodka and grapefruit juice—as he talks easily with her about her Father back in Florida, the one that ends every conversation with, “Are you sure you are okay?”
When the plane departs at last, what a surprise that their seats are right next to each other! Jackson Ripner - don’t call him Jack for obvious reasons - laughs when Lisa suggests he must have wanted to kill his parents for practically naming him after London’s notorious serial killer. “That’s why I murdered them both when I was twelve years old,” he counters. Later on this joke haunts us with unresolved possibilities, as does the actor’s real appendage, “Cillian,” but maybe that’s a cool name in his native Ireland.
Murphy’s Ripner is seamless in his transition from charming confidante to ruthless assassin, well not assassin actually; he just manages the killings, not being very good at the bloody stuff himself. One moment he is getting Lisa ( who like Erica Jong, fears flying) through the stomach dropping rocky takeoff by keeping up an innocuous patter about her father. The next he is telling her that all the talk about Daddy has been purposeful, that he will die if Lisa does not cooperate with him.
All she has to do is make one deadly proscribed phone call and Daddy will be given a stay of execution. Ah, but Lisa has watched Proof of Life or it seems so, and she ups the ante by demanding to talk to her father first off. In one of those quintessential small but significant details, Ripner shoots back, “Okay, but it’s on your dime,” and he grabs her credit card to swipe through the air phone. Somehow the fact that he makes her pay for the call gives his calculating coldness just the right ruthless touch. Kind of like I used to feel as I labored over the IRS long form; I didn’t mind slogging over the cash half as much as I did having to decipher the tax code and calculate it all my myself.
While sinister goings on aboard airplanes have become the clichéd fodder of too many made for TV movies, Red Eye manages to capitalize on the claustrophobic closeness and the brain fogged weariness of a much delayed night flight to use as a backdrop for the mind game going on between its two very excellent leads. If only she had turned down the cheap wine at her grandmother’s funeral and the equally cheap vodka chaser at the airport, perhaps Lisa would be thinking more clearly. Or maybe her brain might function better if she hadn’t been cold conked by Jackson when she seemed about ready to tumble out his treachery to the stewardess. But don’t give up on our intrepid heroine, who has as many cards up her sleeve as Madonna has reinventions of herself.
How refreshing to have a thriller where the plot grows out of the characters instead of on them, the action is believable yet not predictable, and the acting is excellent! Wes Craven, I’m almost going to forgive you for all those bloody slasher travesties I never could bring myself to watch.
Perhaps if Lisa had turned down the Sea Breeze, with its cheap vodka thrill and instead chowed down on some real TexMex fare, she would have been in better shape to match wits with this unctuous assassin, this charming causer of catastrophes, Jackson Ripner.
I’m not talking the gourmet delicacies served up by chef Martin Naranjo in recently reviewed Tortilla Soup, although Pastor Tom’s recipe for this tasty chicken broth would soothe her nerves and feed her brain as well as my Aunt Rose’s Chicken soup, which she always brought over when I was feeling under the weather. But we’re not going to find either of these nutritious rations at the Dallas airport by a long shot.
What we need here is some real TexMex fare, and that means turning to my reliable friend Mike Ludwig who has previously helped us out on the Barbacoa featured in Giant. For true aficionados of the sometimes undervalued cuisine, Mike even has a whole section devoted to recipes featuring rotel, a very popular brand of canned spicy tomato salsa found in every serious TexMex cook’s pantry. If you have the time, check out his terrific site.
Yeah, what Lisa really should have had was a frito pie. The chili would have given her real courage rather than the Dutch variety (politically incorrect, I am sure); the cheese a mellow outlook, and the corn chips a nostalgic visit to junior high and its spirit of adventure.
A Texas favorite that is served at most high school athletic events, this is a quick recipe to now enjoy at home.
3 cups Fritos Original corn chips
3/4 cup Texas yellow onion, diced 1/4" or less
1 cup Mild Cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Chili (your favorite -- homemade, canned, whatever)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spread 2 cups of Fritos in a baking dish.
Sprinkle half the onion and half of the cheese over the Fritos.
Pour the chili over the onion and cheese.
Sprinkle the remaining onion and cheese over the chili.
Top with the remaining 1 cup of Fritos.
Bake for 15 or 20 minutes and cheese is bubbly. Serve hot.
Recipe Source: Secrets to Cooking TexMex by Mike Ludwig