It starts out as a youthful act of flirtation. Two people meet at an airport lounge, both stranded by a delayed flight, and a cautious friendship develops out of a the similarity of their circumstance. Lisa (Rachel McAdams), a hotel manager, apparently ends up coincidently sitting next to the ominously named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) and strikes a natural conversation revolving around her work, family and other casual chit chat subjects, except in slow, deliberate and sly remarks, Rippner reveals that he knows more than any anonymous stranger ideally should. The masquerade quickly comes off with a psychological and physical game of threats, counter-threats, defiance and overcoming traps ensuing.
For director Wes Craven, this is familiar territory. He is an expert at filming situations of helplessness that manipulate the weakness of one character by pitting them against someone who first mentally torments and then physically intimidates them. In Cillian Murphy, he has the perfect calmly threatening creep, someone who asks too many questions but remains distantly harmless until his true lurking intentions leap to the surface. From the moment he is introduced, Rippner reeks of a sneaky obnoxiousness, but we are never able to decide whether that is just his goofy trait or a way to intimidate someone. It proves to be the latter. Cillian Murphy is one of those rare actors who could play the role of a hero very well, but that of villain even more appealingly and here he does just that.
Insanely positioned close-ups, sometimes showing us nothing more than people's eyes as they speak, add to the tense build up and anxiety. Both characters remain smart, making each a formidable opponent, and the movie is never really biased in making one outdo the other in any implausible way, at least until its finale. At this point Craven heavily makes use of his familiar tools, especially his weapon of choice, that of the lone killer, but I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that the movie starts falling apart from here, where it wholeheartedly accepts itself as nothing more than a mere tangent of other Craven slasher films, leaving the conclusion somewhat undercooked and hastily delivered. It's also bizarre why an actor of the stature of Brian Cox appears only for a scant few moments seated on his couch in front of a TV, while the scripts inclusion of a terrorism angle to tie all the elements together seems weaker in retrospect than it did on first viewing. For many the biggest cause for celebration however, will be Craven's return to form (well almost) after the success of his scream trilogy from a few years ago and even though Red Eye is never as fulfilling as them, it is still a tasteful entertainer worth savouring. - Faizan Rashid