Ah, you didn’t think I was done with Wes Craven just yet did you? I feel almost as though I’m betraying my inner horror film junkie by ranking this above his horror films but I have decided to be impartial and recognise that a non-horror Wes Craven film can be just as awesome. What we have here is a very real story and plot that could happen to anyone at any point in their life. It borrows from Wes’s horror films by inserting the fear element in there but instead using realistic human fears and drama to create tension. Oh and did I mention the whole thing takes place on a plane (nope, no snakes however)?
Lisa Reisert is a prompt and businesslike young woman who works in a hotel and is used to being a people pleaser 24/7. This night in particular she is on her way back to Miami after her grandmother’s funeral and she’s taking the red-eye flight. She meets a nice guy Jackson Ripner at the airport and hits it off with him straight away. Imagine her surprise (and delight) when she finds out he’s in the seat next to her. However the delight soon turns more than a little sour when she finds out he is a terrorist operator who has been investigating her for quite some time. On that day, a prominent senator Charles Keefe will be checking into Lisa’s hotel and she is the only one with the authority to change his room at the last minute, in order to make it easier for Jackson’s people to assassinate him. Jackson blackmails Lisa even further by dumping her father’s wallet in front of her and informing her that he has a hitman stationed outside her house, ready to kill her father should she not co-operate.
This is almost the odd film out from what you’d normally expect from Wes Craven but as I said in the introduction, it does carry over a few themes and techniques from his horror films. The main point is isolation – Lisa is alone in the world where she is, trapped on the plane and right beside the most dangerous person she’s ever met. She knows that she can’t get help from any of the flight crew or the other passengers or else her father will be killed. It is interesting to watch her dilemma present itself and see what she’ll do to try and help herself such as the two times she tries to leave secret messages to other people on the flight. It is almost a game of cat-and-mouse though with the predator and prey sitting next to each other most of the time. One thing I do love about plane movies is that you always get to see a large range of characters and how they interact with the main character. I did like the way the other passengers played small parts in Lisa’s story, especially when they don’t know what’s wrong with her.
Our lead is Rachel McAdams as Lisa and she gives the performance of her career here. It ain’t Oscar Bait or anything like that but it’s a pretty damn impressive notch on her resume. Right away from her first scene I liked Lisa with how she was so efficient and on the ball with everything – a proper woman in power. But of course there wouldn’t be a movie with a main character made of stone. Part of the fun (for lack of a better word) is to watch this strong career woman suffer and be tested. We see her become helpless and forced into a situation where she can’t use her efficiency or her people-pleasing skills to get out of. But then again we know her as a strong woman so we of course get to see her take back control and become that new strong character in a different way. Her co-star Cillian Murphy is fantastic as Jackson. Donning a perfect American accent, he draws a lot from the same places as Ellen Page in Hard Candy, Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones and John Jarratt in Wolf Creek. We see him straight away and we like him. I actually went into this film not knowing anything about the plot when I first saw it and it came as quite a jolt to me when he turned around and became the villain. All his eye expressions are so creepy too, making him one of the more sinister Wes Craven villains. I think even Freddy Kruger might be a little unnerved by Jackson.
Another performance I enjoyed was Jayma Mays as Cynthia. She is the complete opposite of Lisa – nervous, bumbling and practically terrified of everything. She brings some nice comic relief to the table, but does it subtly without spoiling the mood. We also have a small role from Brian Cox as Lisa’s father. The actress playing the little girl Rebecca was also quite good, doing well with her small part in the film.
I think one of the most telling scenes happens when Lisa escapes to the restroom on the plane for a few minutes. Before that, when we see her in front of Jackson, she does try to keep herself together as she doesn’t want to seem weak to him but once she’s alone she completely breaks for a moment before she starts thinking. The scenes in the airport after the plane lands are pretty exciting, with a full on cat and mouse game going on. It’s great how we build up all the suspense on the plane, with the story going at a fairly slow place and then when we get to the airport things just kick straight into gear and you’re off at a fast pace. I can’t really describe these scenes any more without spoiling the movie for you so I’ll just leave it at that for now. You’ll understand once you’ve seen the film. Though I will say Cynthia is positively hilarious with her one line after the big scene “Lux Atlantic Resort, how can I help you?”
So my final Wes Craven film on the list and a step outside of his normal films. I’m aware horror isn’t the only genre he does but that’s really what he’s known best for. He clearly does thriller extremely well if this film is anything to go by. You have a sleek stylised study in characters and environments and all that jazz. One big credit this flick has going for it is that it doesn’t waste a second of its running time. There is no padding, no filler and nothing at all to stretch it out for 90 minutes. It doesn’t feel rushed either and it’s one of the rare films that feels absolutely complete once you’ve finished it. And would you believe that this was one of the in-flight movies when I was going over to America one time? How about that, eh? Oh right, follow me on Twitter and all that.