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Movie Review: “Red Eye” Directed by Wes Craven

"Red Eye" was released in 2005. The film’s domestic box office gross was $57,891,803.
October 09, 2007 By tampafilmfan in



After attending her grandmother’s funeral in Dallas, Lux Atlantic Hotel manager Lisa Reisart (Rachel McAdams) is stuck at the airport waiting on the red eye flight back to Miami.  Competent and in control, she adroitly juggles phone calls from her worried father and a flustered hotel employee, calms upset airline passengers and befriends the people next to her in the ticket counter line.  One of her new friends is the unfortunately-named Jackson (“I haven’t gone by Jack since I was ten years old”) Rippner (Cillian Murphy), a charming man with piercing blue eyes who keeps Lisa company at the airport bar.  Lisa bolsters herself with alcohol in order to overcome her fear of flying and her evident discomfort with strangers.

Upon boarding the flight to Miami, Lisa is pleasantly surprised to find herself seated next to Jackson.  Her surprise turns to disbelief and then terror as Jackson reveals the real reason he’s sitting next to her.  As it turns out, however, he’s not the only one with a secret.  To say any more would ruin the suspense of this unusual thriller.

Lisa is trapped: she’s stuck in a claustrophobic airplane with a madman, entangled by the moral dilemma she’s faced with, and haunted by her memories.  As the film moves from the Dallas airport to the plane and eventually to Miami, Lisa’s inner strength and ingenuity are repeatedly tested.  Many lives depend upon her resourcefulness, including her own.


“Red Eye” isn’t the typical, by-the-cliché thriller so often seen in theaters these days.  While there are certain plot weaknesses one must overlook, this film is suspenseful and engaging.  “Red Eye” creates suspense by creating believability.  Lisa Reisart could be any one of us: she is good at her job; she has overcome a personal tragedy; she has a father who worries about her.  She’s just trying to get back home to Miami and harmlessly passes the time making small talk with a fellow passenger.  Lisa is dragged into Jackson’s nefarious world because of her position as Lux Atlantic Hotel manager.  She works at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Once confronted with Jackson’s demands, Lisa is forced to defend herself within the cramped space of an airplane.  There are no police on the way and there’s nowhere to run.  The majority of this 85-minute movie takes place on the plane, which only adds to the claustrophobic tension between Lisa and Jackson.  Extended scenes of two people sitting next to each other talking would usually slow down a movie, but “Red Eye” director Wes Craven pulled it off successfully.  In a interview, Craven said that he paid particular attention to “never having the camera distract, and never having the camera in a place that would be physically impossible if the plane were intact.”

In addition to creating tension, the tight close-ups shots of Lisa and Jackson on the plane are compelling. Both Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are phenomenal in their roles.  McAdams has always amazed me with her ability to morph into whatever character she plays.  In “Red Eye” she portrays a mix of self-assuredness and timidity that is believable.  Murphy, too, is believable and very, very creepy.  On screen, his face changes from gentleness to cruelty instantaneously, making him a haunting movie villain.

There are two weak parts of “Red Eye.”  The basic premise is a little far-fetched if given enough consideration, but creating a realistic terrorist/crime syndicate/assassination-type situation on film is difficult, if not impossible.  Also, once the plane lands in Miami, the movie incorporates a few well-known and often-used suspense standards, such as playing hide-and-seek in an airport without alerting airport security, easily stealing a car to make a hasty getaway and conveniently losing the cell phone signal at just the wrong time. 

These plot devices arrive after a tense hour of riveting, psychological terror and won’t ultimately detract from the film if the viewer is willing to suspend disbelief.  “Red Eye” isn’t perfect, but it’s a fun thrill ride.


Wes Craven is well known as a director of horror films such as “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Scream” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.  With “Red Eye”, Craven successfully tries his hand at something new: a psychological thriller without lots of blood or gore.  He told Twitch Film that “It was a departure from the horror genre and so it was exciting for me in that sense but also because “Red Eye” dealt with such intense human emotions.”

Sci-fi/fantasy writer Carl Ellsworth has been writing for TV shows such as “Xena:Warrior Princess” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for the past ten years.  His most recent screenplay was for the 2007 movie “Disturbia.”  “Red Eye” was his first feature film screenwriting credit.  Ellsworth makes a cameo appearance in the movie as the lone awake airline passenger at the end of a row of sleeping passengers leaning on each other.


“Flight to Miami…”

“The Lux Atlantic…in…Miami.”

“Welcome to Miami International Airport.”

Although Miami plays an important part in “Red Eye” and is mentioned in almost every review, the city itself is actually referenced more than seen in the film.  Only the last third of the movie takes place in Miami, with the majority of the film taking place during the plane ride there. There are also a few scenes of the Lux Atlantic Hotel shown during Lisa’s phone conversations with hotel staff.

The Miami International Airport is the location of Lisa and Jackson’s cat-and-mouse chases.  Lisa jumps off the plane, runs full-tilt through the airport, hides in various airport shops, steals a car and speeds to her father’s house.  The main concourse, moving sidewalk and parking lot scenes are of MIA, with shots from other airports blended in occasionally.

The brief glimpses of Miami are very welcome – and even seem magnified a bit—after the claustrophobic, cramped, interior plane scenes.  The Lux Atlantic Hotel 40th floor penthouse plays an important role in the film, plus the view of the water from the balcony is breathtaking.  According to Miami Today News, the exterior shots of the film’s Lux Atlantic Hotel are actually The Continuum condominiums in Miami Beach.  (In actuality, The Continuum has only 36 floors, so there’s no 40th floor penthouse as depicted in the film.)  Miami Today News also reported that a painting in the penthouse suite in “Red Eye” is by Palmetto Bay artist Marcelle Zanetti.  The painting, “Bismarchia Nobilis II,” is a 60-by 30-inch oil on cotton canvas and is for sale at Zanetti’s gallery.

“Red Eye” was released in 2005 and was the winner of the Teen Choice Award for Choice Thriller. The running time is 85 minutes. The film is rated PG-13. 

Cast and Crew

  • Writer: Carl Ellsworth
  • Director:  Wes Craven
  • Rachel McAdams as Lisa Reisart
  • Cillian Murphy as Jackson Rippner
  • Brian Cox as Joe Reisart

Related Categories: Movie Reviews

Lisa Ciurro

See more articles by tampafilmfan.

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