Don't let the post-9/11 trappings fool you - this is a hugely old-fashioned three-act movie, from its faux Hitchcockian stylings to the planeload of character clichés straight out of Airport '77 (kindly old lady, raucous teens, uptight businessman, cute kid... the only thing missing is a singing nun). But, as the Scream films showed, Wes Craven's a dab hand at spinning the tired and familiar into something post-modern and witty. He can do the same here, right? Right?
Erm, well, yes, he probably could but he doesn't seem bothered, frankly. This is decaffeinated Craven, content to pull a few tricks (there are maybe half-a-dozen jumpy moments scattered around) and keep things ticking along when the film needs triple-espresso Wes to properly wake up. Slathering irritatingly heavy-handed music cues over everything really isn't enough.
Even at barely 85 minutes (including a ludicrously stretched ten-minute final credit roll), Red Eye dawdles. The 20-minute pre-plane first act is a crawl, the mid-section in the air is pointlessly repetitive - she tries to warn people, he stops her and threatens her dad, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat - and the post-plane final chunk reeks of reality twisting to meet a fraying plot. Are we really expected to believe there isn't a working payphone in Miami airport, for instance? Or that there are no security guards at the Arrivals gate? C'mon, Wes!
At least the horrormeister's casting instincts are still strong. Rachel McAdams makes a solidly believable woman in peril (even if Wes cops out when it comes to the idea of her beating the baddie to a pulp without anyone else's help) and Cillian Murphy builds on Batman Begins to show that he's well on the way to cornering the Hollywood market for blue-eyed psychos. But Red Eye needs something more than even they can give it. When the only thought that follows you out of the cinema is "Wow! Hasn't Brian Cox - playing Rachel's dad - lost weight?" you know the film has failed to grab you.