McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, an organized, Type A personality hotel manager who is returning home after being out-of-town due to a death in the family. When her red eye flight from Dallas to Miami is delayed, she passes time with a good-looking, congenial stranger (Murphy) who appears to be hitting on her. She likes the attention but shes wary of men in general. Still, she lets him buy her a drink at the airport bar before they part ways to board their plane.
Once onboard, she goes to take her assigned seat and discovers the stranger is seated next to her. Its a weird coincidence and very disconcerting but she handles it well.
As the flight gets underway, the stranger reveals its no mere coincidence. He introduces himself as Jackson Rippner (one of the cooler names for a movie villain) and unveils the intricate details of his plan. Jacksons been following Lisa for weeks and knows so much about her that she becomes suitably freaked out. He explains that he needs her to make a phone call back to her hotel to move the head of Homeland Security and his family to a different room. If she fails to get her assistant to make the room change, her father will be killed by a man whos sitting outside his house just waiting for word to go ahead with the hit. All it takes is one phone call from Jackson to have her father killed or one phone call from Lisa to save his life. The choice is up to her.
The premise is timely and the use of the confined space of an airplane adds to the white knuckle thrills. For the most part, its just McAdams and Murphy sparring with each other while seated in coach, and Craven masterfully manipulates the set-up to catch every nuance from both actors. Theres a bit of a claustrophobic feel to the film, but thats needed to convey how trapped Lisa feels by this man who is holding her hostage.
When the movie stays focused on McAdams and Murphy and their battle of wills aboard the plane, its at its best. Despite the fact theres not much room to roam around, Craven does a terrific job of building up the tension by simply using 20 or so feet of space aboard a plane.
McAdams and Murphy both must really stretch to convey the battle between the innocent woman who just wants to go home and the man who is holding her fathers life in his hands. Both actors are terrific in their roles and you cant help but think how hard it must have been to keep up that level of tension as actors for the entire time the film was shot. No wonder McAdams said she needed massages and hot baths at the end of the day.
Cillian Murphys played roles other than bad guys but with back-to-back turns as Scarecrow in Batman Begins and the villain in Red Eye, hes really amped up the creepy factor. Those eyes, which are intense and mesmerizing in person, take on a cold and flinty tint when hes being really nasty on screen. And with Red Eye and Batman Begins, Murphy proves hes quite good at being nasty.
Rachel McAdams gives yet another first-rate performance. McAdams is stockpiling a treasure trove of Grade A performances "Mean Girls," "The Notebook," having to play the straight woman in "Wedding Crashers," and now this role of a woman who is determined to never be a victim again. McAdams can appeal to both sexes and shes talented enough to successfully take on characters in all different genres of film.
There are good performances by supporting players including movie veteran Brian Cox (his physical transformation is such that I didnt recognize him the first few minutes he was on screen) and newcomer Jayma Mays. But the movie is basically a two-person show with all the other characters there only to serve as a backdrop.
Until the last 20 minutes or so, "Red Eye" doesnt cheat. But when the last act hits, it kind of feels like its been cut from a different film and plopped willy nilly into this one. After two-thirds of the film being such a tense drama between one woman and one man, to splice in an action film to sum up the story - complete with a chase scene through the airport and a huge explosion - seems like an unnecessary stretch. Its asking the audience to take a huge leap of faith that the last third of the film really belongs with the first two acts, and not everyone will be willing to make that jump. I took the leap because the rest of the film was so deliciously intense that Craven could almost be forgiven for not figuring out a better way to end the movie.
"Red Eye" was directed by Wes Craven and is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence, and language.