(director: Wes Craven; screenwriter: Carl Ellsworth/from a story by Dan Foos & Mr. Ellsworth; cinematographer: Robert D. Yeoman; editors: Stuart Levy/Patrick Lussier; music: Marco Beltrami; cast: Rachel McAdams (Lisa Reisert), Cillian Murphy (Jackson Rippner), Brian Cox (Joe Reisert), Jayma Mays (Cynthia), Jack Scalia (Charles Keefe), Beth Toussaint Coleman (Lydia Keefe), Monica McSwain (Young Flight Attendant), Suzie Plakson (Senior Flight Attendant), Brittany Oaks (Rebecca), Angela Paton (Nice Lady); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Chris Bender/ Marianne Maddalena; DreamWorks; 2005)

“Runs into problems over logic as it battles plot line turbulence.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Veteran horror film director Wes Craven (“Cursed”/”Nightmare on Elm Street”) changes genres and instead presents a psychological post-9/11 thriller that runs into problems over logic as it battles plot line turbulence. It’s based on a story by Dan Foos and Carl Ellsworth (writer of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), with the latter handling the screenplay. Rachel McAdams gets her first lead role as a sympathetic damsel-in-distress, while Irish heartthrob Cillian Murphy plays the nasty heavy.

Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is pictured in the opening scene as an efficient hotel manager, trained in conflict resolution, who while rushing in a cab to catch her red-eye flight from Texas to Miami instructs her bumbling inexperienced assistant Cynthia (Jayma Mays) via cellphone how to straighten out a problem for a couple complaining about their hotel reservations. The stressed-out Lisa, who is fearful of flying, is returning from the funeral of her grandmother. Learning her flight has been delayed, she converses with her overprotective but kindly, divorced, retiree dad Joe Reisert (Brian Cox) who lives in Miami; he tells her he lost his wallet. While on the check-in line Lisa “meets on the cute” a charming stranger named Jack Rippner (Cillian Murphy), who ends up as her seatmate. Before the expected romance hinted at between the two continues further Jack, after some casual conversation as the flight takes off, reveals himself as a ruthless kidnapper working for a terrorist gang that aims to assassinate the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), and his family. Jack threatens to have his partner kill her father unless she cooperates and gets a room switch in her Lux Atlantic hotel for Keefe. One has to suspend belief to follow this line of the plot (it never explains how all the coincidences that come up were rigged), and for those who get over that hurdle there will be a few more bumps on the road that have to be paved out before we come as expected to the kick-ass conclusion.

When Lisa feels almost helpless, she rebounds and gains strength by saying “never again” will she be taken by force like she did recently when she became a rape victim. Terrorism and rape are classified as the same type of degrading violent crimes and the heroine, whom we see disrobed bearing a deep scar on her chest as a result of being victimized, means it when she confronts the evil business-like impersonal attacker by yelling out at him “not in my house” as she fights him off in her dad’s house (implying a broader patriotic charge than just a personal one). Later, when returning to her workplace Lisa will tell off the irritating tourist couple (used as a cheap plot device) who are still complaining over being slightly inconvenienced by telling them “To shove it up their ass.”

The film is too insignificant to make any waves or for anyone to care if it made sense or not. It had something cooking when it compared terrorists to your run-of-the-mill rapists, but eschewed any further philosophical musings to shoot instead for your typical disposable mainstream action pic. If we’re to follow the final message sent, it’s ‘you better be armed to take care of your foes on your own–the world just has too many baddies to be laid-back or to rely solely on the authorities.’ On the surface, the filmmaker might be right. But there are deeper thoughts needed to delve into the current critical situation and this entertaining white-knuckler, however well-acted by the two leads, topical and so ably building up the suspense, is not about delivering those deeper messages.

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