Editor’s Note: We’re counting down the best films of the 2000s decade from 250 all the way to 1. A new film will be added every few days for your reading pleasure. Please be sure to check this blog for other entries. Thanks – MGMT
2005 – Directed by: Wes Craven; Written by: Carl Ellsworth; Starring: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, and Brian Cox
A movie that sadly doesn’t make our list of the top 250 of the 2000s, is “Cast Away”. I remember seeing a review for that movie where the prominent critic remarked that Tom Hanks performance was so compelling, he couldn’t take his eyes off of him. At the time, I thought that sounded like the best ringing endorsement I ever heard, until I saw the movie. Let’s be clear – it’s a deserted island; the movie boasts no music, just the natural sounds of the reality; and there are no other co-stars besides a volleyball. I ask you then – what the hell else are we supposed to look at?
Hanks is fine, nothing against his performance, but I would hardly call it a compelling parlor trick. Throw a solitary man into the unyielding forces of nature, and intrinsically, there’s enough to digest that an ADD kid hopped up on Pixie Stix would still be watching. To me, the performances in today’s entry are much more compelling, and a good deal more difficult to pull off. Here comes #242 – “Red Eye”.
Once upon a time, Rachel McAdams was the hardest-working young actress in Hollywood. In just over a year, she knocked out a slew of movies including: “Mean Girls”, “The Notebook”, “Wedding Crashers”, “The Family Stone”, and this one. We as fans, and I consider myself to be one, got spoiled by the fact that Rachel and her manager were extremely eager for Ms. McAdams to make a name for herself during this stretch. All of the films were hits (to varying degrees) – and all of the movies were good. I mean honestly, if there was a better hot streak in this decade for an actress, I can’t think of it. To be sure, not all of this was pop culture savvy, you do have to be a little lucky as well, but I don’t want to take anything away from the run. Unfortunately, after this, McAdams took some time off to reflect on your next moves and choose her roles much more carefully. Sad really, because all this did was slow down her more prolific nature and left us with less Rachel McAdams movies.
Back to my original point, McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, a worker bee at a posh, Miami hotel who specializes in customer service and guest relations. After McAdams attends her grandma’s funeral in Texas, she needs to hop a red eye flight back to Miami where a handful of problems await her including: her overly concerned father (portrayed by Brian Cox); her ill-trained replacement (portrayed by a pre-“Glee” Jayma Mays); and the arrival of the Deputy Security of Homeland Security. All of those problems pale by comparison when Lisa meets the charismatic and mysterious Jackson Ripner, deftly played by Cillian Murphy.
Murphy first encounters McAdams in line after aiding her in another kind of customer relations. After a few tentative moments, McAdams decides to join him for a drink at the bar. The two of them are all hesitation and damaged goods, until the flirting finally gets the better of them. Some libations and conversation ensue, then the two bid each other adieu – only to be routed by fate (but not really) into another meeting. It appears that McAdams and Murphy will be sharing the same flight seated next to each other on the red eye.
What she soon learns is Murphy’s Ripner has been hired by a terrorist cell for one simple reason, they need McAdams to move the Homeland Security big wig into a different room in the hotel so they can assassinate him. The MacGuffin is simple, if McAdams doesn’t do it, Ripner will have her own father assassinated. Torn between saving her father and the Deputy that she knows on a personal level, and the fact that she knows there’s a limited number of ways to save one or both – or neither for that matter, McAdams struggles with what her next move should be.
A crackerjack script makes the story fly along (sorry for the terrible pun), and the film is wrought with tension. Here’s where the true compelling part of the story comes into play – the performances. For the better part of 45 minutes, McAdams and Murphy share a confined space, if you’ve ever been on an airline flight, you know just how confining we’re talking about here. There’s some cat and mouse antics between them, other passengers, the flight attendants, and an ill-fated trip to the airplane bathroom. Mostly though, it’s McAdams and Murphy sitting next to one another trying to out-scheme the other. Not enough movies show characters thinking, here we get the sense that the two of them are dueling each other in more ways than one. It’s delicious to watch.
McAdams plays Lisa with just enough vulnerability that you doubt her capabilities, which is exactly what she hopes Ripner will do. A violent encounter in her past has left her with deep scars, but a ton of resolve. Underestimating her becomes her own strength, and this heroine needs no saving of her own – all she needs is time to think of a plan. That’s exactly what the red eye provides for her. She’s land-on-your-feet smart and an excellent foil for Murphy. He on the other hand, plays a wicked villain. Full of danger, a sly wit, and laidback terror – Ripner is not a man to be trifled with.
Yes, the master Wes Craven (I will fight anyone who doesn’t call him a master at this point, he touches a nerve in American pop culture that many auteurs would be scared to) ratchets up the chills and underlying terror of the film. It’s pretty unnerving, even if the terror here seems all too real – instead of slasher film induced. But the real marvel is McAdams and Murphy on the plane dueling it out for control in the space of a phone booth. It’s fun to watch and exciting to see two big-time stars build the foundation of their craft. There was once talk of a sequel, but as you read above, McAdams just got too huge to trifle with such things. It’s too bad, I for one would’ve loved to see the two of them battle it out one more time, if for nothing else, the second time around could’ve been another great lesson in screen acting. Oh well, we’ll always have Dallas to Miami.
Check this one out ASAP. The best part, there’s no Visine necessary.
Overall Grade: B+
Movie #241 tease: X marks the spot
243) The Good Girl
244) Wet Hot American Summer
246) My Blueberry Nights
249) The Italian Job
250) Laurel CanyonAs always – subscribe, comment, rate