A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film focuses on a scary man threatening a young woman, who fights back with ingenuity and some violence. Directed by Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), it adopts a basic slasher movie structure, with jump scenes, clever framing, and ominous lighting, music, and camera angles: all this can be scary for younger viewers. Characters use harsh language, drink and smoke briefly, and commit various sorts of mayhem (hitting, stabbing with a pen, shooting, slamming with household items, crashing cars, shooting a shoulder-mounted missile).
What's the story?
Following her grandmother's funeral, Lisa (Rachel McAdams) first on her way back to her Miami home. She checks in with the hotel she manages as the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia) is arriving; only Lisa knows precisely what he needs and when. Seated next to Lisa is Jackson Ripper (Cillian Murphy). When Lisa observes that this name choice "wasn't very nice of your parents," he smiles, so slightly, and jokes, "That's what I told them, before I killed them." Before long, Jackson's flirtation with Lisa turns ugly. Threatening to have Lisa's father killed, he insists that she change the Deputy Secretary's room in order to set him up for a missile attack.
Is it any good?
An entertaining, mostly smart scary movie, Wes Craven's RED EYE effectively updates the slasher flick to address current fears. The monster here is no lumbering and disfigured nightmare, but instead an attractive, slightly built mercenary -- a terrorist for hire. While the specifics of the terrorist plot only get more outrageous, it establishes a recognizable and nervous-making context and gives Lisa all sorts of opportunities to assert her resistance to being bullied, to stand up for her country, and save her dad. That is, she becomes the Last Girl of slasher films, an action hero, and a domestic defender, all in one swoop.
This multiplication of her roles is helped along when she makes Jackson angry on landing, deciding that she will not participate in the terror plot or pretend it's not her job to stop it. She is the ideal citizen, post-9/11. Inexplicably, the professional Jackson takes her resistance personally, and ends up chasing her to her home. This likens him to the horror movie monsters who invade homes (Freddy Krueger among them) and only compounds Red Eye's many metaphorical allusions to "homeland security." Tough, ingenious, and completely fun to watch, Lisa makes the narrative absurdities seem irrelevant.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ways Lisa comes up with to resist the terrorist, as she tries to leave messages, get attention from flight attendants, and finally resists (and solicits audience cheers). How does the movie build toward showing her resourcefulness, by first making her seem vulnerable and afraid? As the terrorists threaten family units (not only Lisa's father, but also the family of the Homeland Security Deputy Director), how does the movie use the idea of "terrorism" as an updated metaphorical danger?
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