Cast: Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver), Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), Paul Shackleton (Toby Jones), Monica Hansen (Joely Richardson), Sally Owen (Elizabeth Olsen).
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Theatrical release: 01/20/2012 (Sundance Film Festival); 07/13/2012 (limited theatrical release) DVD Date: 10/02/2012
Rating: R for language and some violence. Running Time: 113 minutes.
Note(s): Original screenplay written by the film's director, Rodrigo Cortés.
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Review: I'm going to try to keep this review spoiler-free, but I may edge very crossing the line at times. I'm finding it hard to provide an opinion on the film without giving away a key plot point or two.
But here goes …
Sigourney Weaver stars as Margaret Matheson, a scientist whose career is explaining so-called psychic phenomenon with reasonable explanations, and more often exposing psychics as outright frauds. When asked whether or not she believes in psychics, she's ambivalent; she's open to meeting one, but in her entire life, she has never met one. But maybe that's not strictly true. Robert De Niro plays Simon Silver, an incredibly popular blind psychic, who disappeared from public life 30 years ago after an investigator not unlike Matheson suffered a heart attack during one of Silver's performances. Now Silver has returned, seemingly more popular than ever, his reputation intact. When Matheson's young assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) questions why she isn't trying to prove Silver a fraud, she warns Buckley to stay away; Silver is dangerous. She never explains what she means by that, but that doesn't deter Buckley in the least.
Good premise; good setup. All the actors seem appropriately cast for their roles. And I really enjoyed the first hour of this film. I was looking forward to a cat-and-mouse-type scenario where Silver and Matheson would be put in a situation where the stakes would be continually raised until something happened.
OK, here's the first potential spoiler. At about the one hour (half-way) mark, Matheson is found dead in her home. There's no evidence whatsoever that Silver was involved in any way; she simply died. So much for my anticipation for a showdown between Silver and Matheson. This pivotal scene also marks the point where the film goes from being really smart to being — and there's no good way of saying this — really dumb.
Rodrigo Cortés not only wrote the original screenplay for Red Lights, but he directed it as well. So I have to assume he's solely responsible for what happens during the second half of the film. I suspect — another potential spoiler alert — that he was trying to pull an M. Night Shyamalan-style twist, but he fails miserably. The story suddenly makes no sense, both De Niro and Murphy (the actors) seem to have lost their edge, and there is no atmosphere or element of suspense. In short, nothing works.
So … a very, very mixed review here. The first hour is terrific filmmaking, 3½ stars; the second is about the complete opposite, ½ star at best. An average of two stars seems optimistic for my overall impression of the film, but that's what I've settled on.