Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
Can a director who once churned out a critically acclaimed movie and an ensemble cast make the age-old story about paranormal investigators and (possibly) fake psychics and turn it into a hit? The answer is a resounding no.
Considering Rodrigo Cortes' work with "The Contestant" and the Hitchcockian thriller "Buried", starring Ryan Reynolds, all eyes are on Cortes for the psychological thriller. Its title, "Red Lights", refer to indicators of a fake psychic, such as suspicious-looking men before a show, whose job is to identify possible targets and provide the psychic with the necessary information.¬ However, unlike the sparsely furnished "Buried", "Red Lights" is a film full of pomp, what with a cast that includes Golden Globe Awards' nominee Cillian Murphy, Academy Award winner Robert De Niro, two-time Golden Globe Awards' winner Sigourney Weaver, indie actress Elizabeth Olsen and English actor Toby Jones, yet they are let down by a cliched, confusing script and plodding direction.
The film tells the story of a psychologist and paranormal investigator named Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver), and her physicist assistant, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), whose jobs are to investigate psychics and paranormal incidents. After a string of successes, their match comes in the form of Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), whose high-profile return to the limelight forces Margaret and Tom into confrontation, with each other and their own faith. Tom is eager to denounce Silver for who he is, a fraud who relies on nothing more than simple illusions, while Margaret is wary of Silver's capacity to resort to dirty tricks in order to maintain the illusions. Despite their long-standing working relationship, there is no chemistry between the two at all, and when Margaret pleads with Tom to stop his pursuits, there is nothing but to scoff at her like him. What happened to the great Ridley that she is reduced to this cheap caricature of a woman who backs off from doing her job just because Silver made her doubt her faith slightly? In fact, everyone's behaviour is this film is so indifferent save for Cillian's overzealous Tom that it is laughable and akin to watching paint dry.
Compared to "Buried", Cortes loses his visual confidence here, choosing to play safe by relegating to cliches in order to tell the story such as birds flying to their death towards Tom and Tom's increasing obsession and paranoia towards Silver. For a film about faith and whether seeing is believing, everything shown onscreen is neither intriguing nor thought-provoking, just pure confusing because audiences will try to search for a deeper meaning when it should just be taken at face value. For example, Silver is shown floating in the air, but it is no Chekhov's gun. When Tom's apartment is trashed, it is unbelievable that Sally Owen (Elizabeth Olsen), who was sitting outside it, did not hear anything. At least M. Night Shyamalan could build up proper anticipation for his twist ending, even if his characters and narratives are insipid which makes for a ridiculous climax and final reveal in "Red Lights".
The verdict is out, and while it may be commercially thrilling, "Red Lights" is ultimately a low-fi bore rather than psychodrama, making mockeries of the ensemble cast. Better luck next time, Cortes.
The film is also available in 2D in Singapore.Cinema Online, 30 July 2012