the short, non-spoiler version is this: it’s pretty good, check it out.
i was once told that it’s a fact that horror films do better in times of war. my source on this isn’t rock solid, but it makes enough sense so there it is. here is a horror/thriller that, like many horror films (invasion of the body snatchers, etc.), immerses its thrills in a cultural context. the plot follows a young hotel manager (mcadams) on her way back home after going to her grandmother’s funeral. in the airport she meets charming cilliam murphy and they exchange niceties. after flight delays they board and find themselves sitting next to each other again. after the flight takes off murphy turns from mr. charming to airborne nightmare. he explains to her that her father (a dark-haired brian cox) will die if she doesn’t remotely arrange for the director of homeland security (who is staying at her hotel) to be moved to another room. craven fills in some of the backstory with shots of a television broadcast introducing the director of h.s., and he comes off as a pupil of the school of real politick; in other words, his approach to security is to rule with an iron fist. when confronted with this ultimatum mcadams tells murphy she knows the director to be a kind, good man and that murphy shouldn’t aid in his assassination. another subplot is that mcadams has trust issues because of a previous rape. in fact the best part of the film is when she tells murphy that the one thing she has been trying to convince herself of since it happened is that she’ll never let it happen again. these elements (her rape, the target being the director of homeland security, and the setting – an airplane) all clearly make this a topical thriller.
what had me guessing, though, is what craven is trying to say with this piece. i don’t think he is merely placing a thriller in a modern cultural context, i think he is trying to make a political statement. 1) mcadams says she’ll never let herself be victimized again and she attacks her attacker. 2) mcadams stands up for the director of homeland security, saying he’s a great guy, yet we know him to be Machiavellian. 3) in the end everyone survives and the good guys win, no sacrifice was necessary. craven invokes the memory of 9/11 and seems to fall in line with the administration, but leaves no martyr to strengthen the cause. why? he does, however, allow the actual assassins to escape. does he do this to reinforce the idea that the enemy is still out there? if so, this seems, again, to fall in line with the philosophy of the bush administration which uses fear as a device for control. i don’t think craven is a republican, but the film does come off as slightly republican.
i enjoyed the thriller aspect of the film; it kept me interested and entertained throughout. i don’t know how most will view the film, but i actually wanted the director of homeland security to be assassinated. not so much because i wanted to see mcadams fail in her quest, but more because i wanted to see murphy succeed in his. that and i didn’t care at all for the director of homeland security.
interestingly, craven films mcadams at 3/4 (possibly indicating she has something to hide) through most of the first part of the film, whereas he films murphy head on and 3/4. it’s interesting because it felt like it should have been the other way around. murphy, after all, was the one with something to hide. true, mcadams was hiding her past, but murphy was hiding the fact that he works for assassins – a somewhat larger secret. anyway, it’s a minor point.
the very end was a complete throwaway, though you might be able to make some stretch of an argument that it was mcadams aligning herself with the proletariat and thus making her character less a symbol of a tool of the bush administration, and more a symbol of jane average making good. then again i could be reading FAR too much into this film. it made me think and it’s fun enough to watch so…Watched in theater