Content warnings: sexual assault/rape
The short of it- Red Eye was a rape revenge movie without being a rape revenge movie and Lisa is a Top Tier Final Girl that 2005 was not ready for.
The long of it-
Red Eye is the first feature screenplay from Carl Ellsworth, who later wrote Disturbia and The Last House On The Left remake in 2009, and it was based on a story by Ellsworth and Dan Foos. Veteran horror director Wes Craven (RIP) takes a side-step from the genre he’s well associated with and helms this suspense-thriller. Our main players are Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Mean Girls) as Lisa Reisert, Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) as Jackson Rippner, Brian Cox as Joe Reisert, Jayma Mays as Cynthia, and Jack Scalia as Charles Keefe. The music was composed by Marco Beltrami, who also composed the music for Scream movies 1 through 4.
We’re introduced to Lisa in the back of a cab on a rainy night, talking on the phone to fellow hotel employee, Cynthia. There was a flub at the hotel over a reservation for two regulars, who become irate, and Lisa guides Cynthia through fixing it and, ultimately, making the customers happy. If you’ve worked in any sort of customer service position, you’ve been forced to keep a straight face and deal with asshole customers, and Lisa seems to be a pro.
As the audience files into a busy airport, there’s hundreds of background characters one can watch, including cameos from actors who had worked with Craven in Scream 2, The Serpent & The Rainbow, and even Craven himself (if you know where to look). A young girl is parting ways with her mother to take her first flight by herself. A pleasant older woman chats up Lisa after seeing the Dr. Phil book she’s carrying and Lisa passes along the book to her. While Lisa tries to defuse tensions between an asshole customer and an airline worker, Jack steps in. Jack has just been another face in the crowd of passengers until he steps forward to back up Lisa. After the planes are delayed further, Lisa sees this mystery man again and they sit adjacent to each other at the bar. Making conversation, Jack tries to play suave and coy by guessing what her drink of choice is. He lands on a Sea Breeze to which she corrects him by saying her drink of choice is a Bay Breeze. As she takes her first drink, she noticeably grimaces at the taste, which would seem odd for her “drink of choice”, no matter how cheap or watered down the alcohol was.
Jack seems charming enough. When the pair meet each other again as they’re seated on the same plane, it would be the start of a romantic comedy. While the plane goes through a patch of turbulence, Jack talks to Lisa about her family, her grandma who had just passed and her parents. She thanks him for the distraction, and goes back to asking about his job, to which he responds, “As fate would have it, my job is all about you.” Editor Patrick Lussier recalled that audiences had the same reaction to this that Scream got when audiences heard a voice on the phone ask Casey, “I want to know who I’m looking at.”
He has her now.
Jack is part of a terrorist group aiming to assassinate Keefe, a Homeland Security official. The plot involves his stay at the hotel where Lisa works, and they need her to make a phone call and use her pull as a manager to move him to a different room so it’s easier to hit his room with a shoulder-rocket launcher.
Once Jack’s intentions are revealed, he doesn’t hold back. The charming man she had smiled and joked with at the bar was now a manipulative, controlling, and misogynistic air head. Surrounded by other passengers and roaming stewardesses, Lisa is forced to silence her sobs and play them off as she’s still upset over her grandma’s passing. Jack keeps his charm with the surrounding people as best as he can, but when he turns back to Lisa, that facade falls.
Jack: “Lisa, whatever female-driven, emotion-based dilemma you may be dealing with right now, you have my sympathy. But for the sake of time and sanity, let’s break this down into a little male-driven fact-based logic.”
With each passing scene, Jack’s frustration and desperation grow. She’s not doing what he tells her, she refuses to make the phone call to move Keefe’s room. When he follows her into the airplane bathroom, which the stewardesses dismiss as a “mile high” moment, they’re finally alone, she’s at his mercy and he’s unleashed, choking her and slamming her head against the wall.
Jack: “I think you’re not such an honest person. Because I’ve been following you for eight weeks now, and I never once saw you order anything but a fucking Sea Breeze!”
We don’t ever learn the extent of what Jack’s job is, but he followed her for two months. The idea of assassinating a Homeland security official led to him stalking this woman for two months and waiting until she was in a vulnerable spot.
In the United States alone, there’s an estimated 570 people daily who are victims of a sexually violent crime. This adds up to an estimated 18+ million women and 3+ million men who have been victims of rape since 1998. An estimated 64% of people in the trans* community are victims of a sexual crime. 99% of the people who commit sexually violent acts will face no prosecution and not see prison time for their crimes, mainly due to rape culture that has conditioned people to not believe the victim and often see it as a joke somehow.
If you’ve been a victim of a sexual crime or know someone who has been, you can call 800-656-4673 (800-656-HOPE) if you’re in the States or you can visit https://rainn.org for more resources.
Breaking down the rape revenge movie subgenre comes to- the first act is the violation, the second act is the immediate aftermath and plotting, and the third act is the revenge. The I Spit On Your Grave movies and the Soska Sisters’ American Mary are two of the most notable ones. The original The Last House On The Left was released in 1972, written and also directed by Wes Craven, in his directorial debut. Red Eye brings us along for the pursuit, the capture, the hostage situation, and every subsequent mental process all within the confines of an airplane and without showing any violent sexual acts. We learn of Lisa’s assault at the start of the third act, as the plane is landing. Throughout the entire movie, the word “rape” is never used. Jack notices a scar below her collarbone as he’s holding her against the wall in the airplane bathroom, and after she says it wasn’t self-inflicted, we’re able to assume he pieced it together.
Lisa: “It happened in a parking lot, the scar, two years ago, in the middle of the day. He held a knife to my throat the whole time. Ever since, I’ve been trying to convince myself of one thing over and over”
Jack (almost sarcastically): “That it was beyond your control.”
Lisa: “No, that it would never happen again.”
It’s not a parking garage, but an airplane, and there’s a “knife” to her throat the whole time. The actual knife is waiting outside of her dad’s house, but she just has to play along long enough to wait for a move to get out alive, which is a tactic still used in rape defense classes. Jack is almost like Richard Ramirez but with better teeth.
Jack: “Once I’m out of your line of sight, I’ll call off Mr. Killer from outside Dad’s and then you’re free. Free to yell and scream, call you dad, tell him to run to the neighbors, sound good?”
The asshole customer that Lisa and Jack had tried to calm in the beginning is the doctor that comes to Jack’s aid as the pen is sticking out of his throat. The pen belonged to teenage boys sitting behind them on the plane that try to annoy each other during the flight. The young girl that had been by herself on the plane kicks her back into the aisle to trip Jack as he’s trying to run after Lisa. Some of these background characters are not obsolete. Nothing in this movie happens without reasons and so much of it is a domino effect.
Lisa has the arc that typically defines any Final Girl. As the plane is landing, that’s when her “final transformation” happens. Laurie had a knitting needle, Ginny had a machete, and Lisa had a cartoon monster pen. She makes it to the final showdown to face her killer. She may not have a house set up with booby traps to catch her villain, like Nancy did, but she has home field advantage. She knows the layout and, just as important, she knows where her field hockey stick is in her closet. Jack, going beyond what he was paid to do, pursues Lisa back to her father’s house- the large house that she grew up in and where her father left her bedroom untouched after she moved out.
Jackson: “I’ll finish the job.”
Lisa: “Not in my house.”
And, we have the fantastic “fuck you” moment of
Lisa: “Where’s your male-driven, fact-based logic now, Jack?”
As the dust settles (literally), Cynthia and Lisa share the screen for the first time. After every exchange on-screen between them is through the phone, there’s a definite satisfaction in seeing these two come together after the hellish ordeal. The first time we see Lisa, she appears more innocent and proper, being a people-pleaser as a hotel manager, even to the demanding and rude customers. At the end, she tells those customers to fill out a comment card and shove it up their asses. In true fashion of early 2000’s movie humor, it ends on a knee-slapping zinger-
Lisa: “Anything but a Bay Breeze. “