Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Red Lights (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes asks how much do you want to believe?

In spite of a head lining Sundance Film Festival premiere in January and the presence of top-billed stars, Red Lights (2012) is a largely unheard of film that came and went earlier this year and that too, fairly quickly. Ignore the bad press, it is too bad because you may have missed a real treat, until now. 

Red Lights is the story of a two academic doctors, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley(Cillian Murphy) who travel the country debunking and exposing fraudulent mediums, psychics and other paranormal charlatans. Matheson is especially cynical due to personal tragedies, whereas, Tom is cynical but has more of an open mind. He WANTS to believe, but so far he has not seen anything that makes him a convert to the para-psychological phenomenon. 

As Red Lights opens the two are investigating a home where it was claimed the ghost of a family member still haunts. After it is explained this place and it inhabitants are frauds, the two doctors hear of the great Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) coming out of retirement. 

Simon Silver is world renowned psychic whose last performance ended in tragedy when one of his most ardent critics died of a heart attack. Somehow, Silver is all about show and has used the tragedy to celebrate his return, in a matter of speaking. Tom is adamant about investigating Silver, but Matheson is unwilling and would rather spar with her fellow alumni Paul Shackleton (Toby Jones) over funding for their college departments. Tom begins an affair with an attractive student Sally Owen (Elizabeth Olsen) who later becomes an intern for Tom and Matheson. Later, Tom begins his own investigation of Silver with dire consequences. 

Red Lights was written and directed by relative newcomer Rodrigo Cortes as this is only his third feature length film. His previous 2 releases include the similarly themed paranormal mystery Apartment 143 (2011) which he wrote and the Ryan Reynolds claustrophobic starrer - Buried (2010) which he directed but with Red Lights he thrusts himself to the top with an excellent and superbly crafted thriller. This film intrigued me from start to finish where nothing is as it seems and the adage 'be careful what you wish for', you might just get it; even the truth. 

Cortes has indeed done his homework for this film (apparently, he spent 18 months just researching the subject and writing the screenplay). He seems to know a lot of the ins and outs of how the the con-men are able to get a leg up on their subjects. Also, how susceptible we all are if we give in too easily to hope and answers that we look for to ease our own pain and anguish for our own personal tragedies. 

Red Lights is brilliantly acted by its four main stars. Each character seems to be involved for their own reasons but it is the tension between Murphy and DeNiro are at loggerheads. Is Silver a fake or can he do what he says he can? Is he an enigma? Or is he just like all the rest of the flim-flam artists? Olsen is sweetly naive and has no idea what she is in for when Tom and Simon go at it. 

Weaver is given top billing just after Cillian Murphy, but this is really Murphy and DeNiro tearing up the screen. Red Lights is a smart, intelligent and entertaining thriller and thankfully, it is now available on DVD. Red Lights - ***1/2 out of 4.


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