Written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés (Buried, The Contestant) Red Lights is really a psychological cum paranormal thriller. Rodrigo’s last film Buried did so well, that the studios obviously trusted him to work with the big money, aka star actors. You cannot really get much bigger than veteran actors Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, and Joely Richardson.
Add into this already heady mix, the more ‘recent’ dependable actors in the guise of Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones and you have a vehicle that just smacks of success. The “Readers Digest” version of the plot is as follows:
Dr Matheson (Weaver) is a psychologist who is also a veteran paranormal “debunker.” She works with her assistant Dr Buckley (Murphy) who is a physicist. The beginning of the film sees the two “debunking” a typical haunting. That the two are fond of each other is apparent; these two are not just colleagues, they are friends.
After they finish, Matheson asks Buckley to drop her off at the hospital to see her comatose son, who is hooked up to a life support machine.
We next see the two presenting a class to university students. They are “teaching” them how to ‘fake’ a seance. We are introduced very briefly to Sally Owen (Olsen) who after the class approaches Dr Buckley to turn in an assignment. She clearly likes him and they go out to a diner. Buckley explains to Sally about “red lights” which are the subtle tricks that fraudsters use to fool the gullible.
Enter Simon Silver (De Niro) a blind older version of Uri Geller. He can bend spoons, practice telepathy and apparently can levitate. He is making his first public appearance in over thirty years. He ‘retired’ when one of his most fervent denouncers dramatically had a heart attack and died during Silver’s last public appearance.
Buckley wants to immediately investigate Silver and prove that he is a fraud. Dr Matheson urges Buckley to leave it alone. She had faced Silver thirty years ago and she maintains that he is too powerful to be touched. She also reveals that when she had gone up against Silver before, her young son suddenly toppled over and he has never regained conciousness.
Buckley ignores Matheson’s warning and starts investigating Silver anyway.
The build up of suspense in this film was brilliant. It played more like a mystery/thriller for three quarters of the film. The characters of Matheson and Buckley and Owen were drawn so well that we immediately felt a connection with them. In essence before the first twenty minutes of the film we found that we liked them and cared about what they were doing.
I was a little disappointed that Joely Richardson did not have more to do. She played Silver’s manager/agent and she came across as malevolent and not a little scary. De Niro did what he does best. He dominates the screen with his presence alone. He is still capable of catching our attention without saying a word.
Elizabeth Olsen gave a very sturdy performance as Buckley’s love interest/partner in crime. Cillian Murphy was the stand-out performance in this film. He has come a long way since 28 Days Later and Inception.
IMDb gives Red Lights a 6.6 out of 10. I would rate it higher just for the high quality of the acting and for the well woven plot. It is one of those films that you should see at least twice to catch every nuance the film has to offer. Just like the “red lights” mentioned by Buckley, the film will mislead you and trick you.
Despite the mediocre and misleading marketing of the film, it is worth the price of admission and splashing out for a bag of popcorn and a coke.
- Exclusive Clip from Rodrigo Cortes’ Thriller Red Lights Starring Robert De Niro and Cillian Murphy (collider.com)
- Red Lights: Reviewed (thespoilist.wordpress.com)
- “Are You Floating Like Me?” RED LIGHTS Review (thepeoplesmovies.com)
- ‘DeNiro and Sigourney were so warm and nice’ (thesun.co.uk)
- Get Blinded By New Red Lights Imagery (dreadcentral.com)