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Red Eye Reviews

Please fasten your seat belts — you're in for quite a flight. After nearly a decade of duds, Wes Craven reasserts his claim to being a master of suspense with this solid little airborne thriller. Delayed at a Dallas airport while en route home, Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), the can-do, people-pleasing manager of Miami's high-rise Lux Atlantic hotel, whiles away the time in the airport lounge, sipping a bay breeze while idly flirting with Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), the handsome stranger whom she met just moments earlier on the check-in line. Once the overnight flight is cleared for takeoff and the passengers board the plane, Lisa is pleasantly surprised to find herself with a window seat — right next to Jackson. The turbulent takeoff exacerbates Lisa's fear of flying, but Jackson is kind enough to distract her by asking Lisa all about her late grandmother, whose funeral drew Lisa to Texas in the first place, and her father (Brian Cox), a retiree who lives just outside Miami. Once the plane reaches cruising altitude and the captain turns off the seatbelt sign, however, Jackson reveals the real reason for his interest: He, too, is a "manager" of sorts, an operative in a plot to kill Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), the controversial new deputy secretary of Homeland Security who's scheduled to check into the Lux Atlantic with his family at 5:30 the following morning. Jackson also reveals that he's got a man waiting outside the home of Lisa's dear father, and if she doesn't use the in-flight phone to call the hotel and switch the Keefes' regular suite to Room 4080 — a move Lisa knows will put Keefe and his entire family in harm's way — her father is a dead man. It's a pretty neat premise, and Craven and screenwriter Carl Ellsworth (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) play it light and tight, managing some white-knuckle suspense while fully exploiting the greater hell of flying coach. McAdams makes for a spunky heroine — she's cute, but never cloying — while the Irish actor Murphy (28 DAYS LATER...) oozes a menacing sort of sensuality, and can go from sexy to sinister with a simple flip of a forelock. It all works surprisingly well, given the obvious limitations of staging what amounts to a kidnapping movie aboard a plane, but we must insist that in the future screenwriters come up with more imaginative workarounds to the simple, 911-dialing facts of cell phones: "No Service" signals and dead batteries have fast become the nonstarting cars of the wireless age.