At 85 minutes, "Red Eye" doesn't really have option of taking things leisurely. So it quickly settles into a swifter-than-air-travel pace.
In fact, this airborne kidnapping thriller moves so briskly that you may not notice most of its convenient, contrived plot devices. This is one of those either-you-swallow-it-completely-or-you-don't thrillers, akin to television's "24."
"Red Eye" also represents another career step forward for Rachel McAdams ("Wedding Crashers," "The Notebook"), who stars as Lisa Reisert, a hotel-reservations manager stranded at the airport when her return flight from Texas to Florida is delayed.
There, she meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), a fellow passenger whose charms have put the reluctant traveler at ease. That is, until he reveals that he's a mercenary and that his associates are holding her father (Brian Cox) hostage.
As it turns out, they need her cooperation to pull off a plan to assassinate the Homeland Security chief (Jack Scalia). Naturally, Lisa is horrified. But since she's stuck in the air with a man threatening her father's life, it doesn't appear she has many options.
Unfortunately, if you've seen the overly revealing TV ads you already know that Lisa and Jackson's cat-and-mouse game continues once the plane touches down a final, 20-minute sequence that is perhaps the film's best.
There are other things here to suggest that this may be the most accomplished directorial work yet by Wes Craven ("Nightmare on Elm Street," "Scream"). The film is mostly free of some of his gimmicky flourishes and really builds the panicky, claustrophobic terror of plane travel in an identifiable way.
Much of that has to do with McAdams' believable performance. And Murphy (who played the Scarecrow in "Batman Begins") continues to impress, suggesting menace with his piercing blue eyes.
While a few of the film's more preposterous story elements do remain glaring, "Red Eye" is nonetheless enjoyable and exciting, something more than merely a guilty pleasure.
"Red Eye" is rated PG-13 for some strong action violence (gunplay, a stabbing, vehicular violence, violence against women and some explosive mayhem), scattered use of strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called R-rated curse word), and some brief gore. Running time: 85 minutes.