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Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Nice Cinematic Surprise

As I wrote in my comments to kStyle's post about the year's movies a couple of weeks ago, I didn't enjoy many movies in 2005, and by the end of the year didn't feel like any but a handful had been worth seeing. I added one to that handful this weekend with a rental of Wes Craven's Red Eye, a thriller from late summer that I enjoyed immensely for the following reasons:

1. Not including end credits, its running time is about 76 minutes long. I'm not sure a movie needs to be more than 76 minutes long, and this one, like all good short movies, still feels like a full meal.

2. The film stars Rachel McAdams, whose presence elevated three already good movies this year: this one, Wedding Crashers, and The Family Stone. Last year she did a bang-up job in Mean Girls, which she helped take from good to very good, and The Notebook, which she took almost by herself from mediocre to good. They're saying she's the next Julia Roberts, but I don't know why anyone has to be the next anything. Besides I think she's much better.

3. It's a movie with (almost) not an ounce of fat on it. A thing is set in motion. It happens. The ending is both surprising and inevitable, and when it occurs, the movie is over. No one learns any lessons.

4. I say (almost) because there is one thing: at a key point, the screenplay makes the protagonist do something entirely unnecessary and superfluous, removing momentarily our alignment with her. But because its failure on this point gave me reason to pause and contemplate interesting issues of dramatic structure, I forgave it, much as I would forgive peas for sitting on my plate next to the potatoes.

5. Its supporting cast is populated with good character actors who, though most of their characters don't even have names, look like and behave like interesting people, and are given interesting things to say and do.

6. Those things the movie does that, due to its being essentially a genre movie with nothing on its mind, are severely less than plausible, it does with gusto.

7. Not including end credits, its running time is about 76 minutes long.


Blogger kStyle said...

I sense, E, that you're as frustrated as I am with the 3-hour-movie trend. Dear 3-hour-movie makers: If you can't say it in 90 minutes, you're probably yakking too much.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Indeed. The one exception this year is, I think, Brokeback Mountain, which is longish at 134 minutes but at least after the first half-hour very well-paced. The languorous mood also seems essential to me to what the movie is trying to do. I don't think I looked at my watch once, which is rare for me.

Oh, wait: I did look at it once. But still, quite rare.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I prefer two-hour movies. They're not too long, but I still feel like I'm getting something for my $8.25.

I'll watch anything with Rachel McAdams in it. Aside from the fact that she's drop-dead gorgeous, I like the way she says things. It's sort of the opposite of the way Hugh Grant says things: She enunciates.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Right on, though I think Hugh Grant does his own thing that's quite worthwhile. The thing about McAdams in Red Eye is that she doesn't do any of the things you expect an actress in a woman-in-peril movie to do. (That is to say, the character is pretty much by-the-book, but the performance isn't.) Her whole demeanor is a great deviation from the mean here, and it makes the movie feel more unusual and interesting than it actually is.

10:48 AM  

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