While many films stand the test of time, others fade into obscurity. Whether this happens over a period of years or almost instantly upon a film’s release, each of these titles has slipped through the cracks of our collective memory to join the ranks of the Films That Time Forgot.
Despite being made by legendary filmmaker Wes Craven and featuring multiple A-list actors in the early days of their stardom, Red Eye is a film that has been largely forgotten. Starring Rachel McAdams as Lisa Reisert, Red Eye follows the hotel clerk as she is forced to contend with a terrorist plot while trapped on a late cross-country flight. Cillian Murphy also stars as Jack Rippner (hopefully not the character’s real name), the movie’s primary antagonist who attempts to manipulate and blackmail Lisa into assisting with his plan to assassinate a US politician.
It may have been released in the same year as fellow airborne thriller Flightplan, but the two films share few other similarities. Where Flightplan tries (and ultimately fails) to be a mind-bending experience, Red Eye is a more straightforward sort of thriller, relying instead on its cast to sell its fairly simple plot. Alongside McAdams and Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Jack Scalia, and Kyle Gallner also appear, rounding out a solid mid-’00s cast.
Exactly why or how Red Eye has been forgotten (especially when the vastly inferior Flightplan is better remembered) is anyone’s guess. It received generally positive reviews at the time of its release, and it earned respectable box office success. However, despite checking all the boxes, it is missing one or two key ingredients to lasting success.
Red Eye May Not Be A Masterpiece, But It’s Adequately Thrilling
As both Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy deliver well-considered performances that speak to their respective acting talents, it’s certainly not the quality of the film’s acting that was the problem. Moreover, though Craven’s script requires one or two convenient leaps in logic to work, Red Eye is overall a tightly-written thriller that works on a narrative and thematic level. It may not be the most original or the most innovative film out there, but it has all the components of a memorable and time-honored movie featuring beloved actors in the early stages of their careers.
It would seem that the issues surrounding the film and its lack of lasting impact can largely be attributed to the timing of its release. Though Cillian Murphy had achieved some fame through his starring role in 28 Days Later, he was still a few years away from the back-to-back hits in Batman Begins and Sunshine that earned him his status as a bankable star. McAdams, on the other hand, saw a slew of successful movies released around the same time as Red Eye – Mean Girls and The Notebook in 2004, and Wedding Crashers and The Family Stone in 2005 – meaning that her slate of roles was relatively packed at the time.
Ultimately, Red Eye is an enjoyable and appropriately tense thriller, but it has very little rewatch value, which has likely also contributed to its forgettable nature. Despite good performances from its leads and a reasonably solid premise, it simply isn’t altogether memorable, particularly as it doesn’t feel particularly unique. Though Red Eye is, generally speaking, a good film, it isn’t a great one, and that seems to have been its eventual undoing.
Summary: Red Eye is generally well-written and undeniably well-acted, delivering one of the tensest thrillers of the ’00s. Its fairly uninspired premise is something of a disservice to its capable stars, which may be why it has ultimately been forgotten.
Highlights: Rachel McAdams’ performance communicates claustrophobic fear and hardened resolve in an almost wordless manner, proving that she’s one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors. Cillian Murphy is also delightfully creepy in his usual understated way, making the tense and sometimes sickening chemistry between them the best aspect of the film.