Monday, August 29, 2005

Red Eye

With Wes Craven, it seems to come down quite often to an inability to execute a promising conceptual piece. Red Eye follows this tradition, but it also fails on a deeper level, even though it manages to be Craven's most interesting film since Scream. Formally, Red Eye is rather exhilarating, at least for the first half. Confined mostly to the interior of a passenger jet (and, to a more specific degree, two side-by-side seats), Craven's camera captures each and every moment as if it were a living, breathing being. It's a stunning beginning, which makes the film's final act that much more disappointing.

The film concerns a typically strong-willed Craven female protagonist. Heather Langenkamp, Neve Campbell, Maren Jensen, Linda Blair, Loryn Locklin, Susan Lanier, Angela Bassett and Christina Ricci have all played different riffs of this victim/hero archetype. Craven has had varying degrees of success with it, but it is a model that he typically excels at. In a quite troubling move, he betrays that ideal with Red Eye's denouement. His powerful female character fights and toils through every predicament thrown her way, then, in a fit of maddeningly inept plotting, must be saved by her Daddy.

This kind of artistic betrayal is extraordinarily frustrating coming from a filmmaker who, although often not always a level-A player, is usually aesthetically at the top of his game. Once Red Eye leaves the confines of the plane cabin and attempts to open up into a more standard thriller, it loses steam...and intrigue...a shame since for nearly an hour I was convinced I was seeing one of the best films of the year.

An utter letdown.

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