Running time: 86 minutes Deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.
Director Wes Craven knows how to keep us on the edges of our seats in this high altitude tale of terror. Rachel McAdams makes a very appealing heroine, returning from the Texas funeral of her grandmother. Lisa, the manager of a posh Florida hotel, keeps in close contact with Cynthia (Jayma Mays), her somewhat flustered deputy, apparently left in charge of the hotel for the first time. Bolstered by Lisa’s orders, she handles successfully the botched reservations of a pair of arrogant guests. Meanwhile, Lisa’s flight has been cancelled due to bad weather, forcing her to switch to a “red eye” flight. In the long line of upset passengers she meets a handsome traveler (Cillian Murphy), parts, and then encounters him again at the airport bar, where they share a drink and exchange pleasantries.
Imagine her surprise when she boards her plane and discovers that he is right next to her seat. He introduces himself as Jackson, and they converse. Now if it were not for the fact that this is a Wes Craven movie (and also the unsettling soundtrack music), we would expect this “meet cute” sequence to devolve into a series of romantic episodes. However, the conversation quickly assumes a sinister tone, with Jackson exhibiting too great a knowledge of Lisa and her father (Brian Cox) than could be expected. Jackson orders her to call her hotel and arrange for an important guest due to check in soon to be transferred to a corner room much farther up in the high-rise hotel. This is deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), and Jackson is part of a plot to assassinate the official. If she does not cooperate, the man parked outside her father’s home will kill him.
There are many tense moments in the confined cabin, in which Jackson thwarts several attempts of Lisa to let others know of her plight. Her call to her hotel is delayed by the bad weather conditions, and when the radiophone does work, her attempt to fake the call is discovered. She finally gives Cynthia the order to reassign the official upstairs. As the plane nears its destination and lands, the action moves into high gear, with the audience pulling for the plucky heroine, and by now, the not so experienced but likable Cynthia. We are told nothing of the reasons why the government official, and it develops his family who are traveling with him, has been targeted, nor who has hired Jackson. Everything is compressed into the story of one vulnerable hotel manager who must call up not only courage but also her resourcefulness if tragedy is to be averted. If your cup of tea is a thriller so engrossing that you forget everything else while watching it, then this movie is for you. And don’t forget the plucky heroine part, either.