Following on from his praised work on claustrophobic thriller Buried, director Rodrigo Cortes helms Red Lights, a supernatural thriller. Paranormal activity debunkers Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Dr. Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) travel the US investigating fraudsters who take peoples money by pretending to be in touch with spirits. Having never found any proof the duo have seen their funding University funding cut back, while Dr. Paul Shackleton’s (Toby Jones) research into ESP has increased. Disillusioned by the whole process Buckley decides to target world famous blind medium Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) who has recently come out of retirement for a last tour of shows.
Look for the red lights exclaims Weaver’s uber-skeptic Matheson when talking to a student during a sting operation on a phony medium. These are the things that don’t quite add up, that sit apart from the natural environment and in the case of the film the red lights are the stellar cast, which sit interestingly at odds with the narrative and script for this by-the-numbers thriller.
To be a standout supernatural thriller a film has to not only have a great cast of convincing characters, but show the audience something new and preferably have a cracking twist. A film like The Sixth Sense for instance has all of the above and is a classic, Red Lights falls short of these lofty heights, but has more than enough to make it enjoyable. The key element to its success is the cast assembled by Cortes, which boasts A-Lister De Niro, science fiction goddess Weaver, Oscar friendly Jones and established character actor Murphy. It is Murphy’s performance that ties the sometimes hokey narrative together and his relationship with Weaver is the real highlight of Red Lights. There’s even cameo roles for up-and-comers Elizabeth Olsen and Submarine‘s Craig Roberts.
Functional and by-the-numbers is the best way to describe Red Lights and there’s very little new or original about the script. In fact there are nods throughout to other supernatural fiction like Carrie (telekinisis) and The X Files (note a Mulder-esque poster on the wall) and as always these serve to remind the audience of the finer examples of this genre rather than dragging Red Lights into the same quality level. They produce a Sixth Sense-style twist at the end, which ties the themes of ˜distraction’ and ˜sleight of hand trickery’ together beautifully, but it doesn’t have enough impact to set the film apart from the host of supernatural thrillers that have preceded it.