While most recent movies about paranormal phenomena lies in documentary cinematography—think Paranormal Activity and Chernobyl Diaries— the psychological thriller Red Lights is sure to break that trend.
University professor Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) team together to debunk claims of ghost whispering, faith healing, and other psychic phenomena. The two paranormal researchers look for what they call ‘”red lights,” signs or mistakes that suggest fraudulent claims of paranormal ability.
Buckley becomes intrigued as Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a legendary blind psychic, comes out of a 30-year retirement. Part of Silver’s charm and draw is that his blindness seems to increase his psychic ability and box office appeal. Determined to defraud Silver, the obsessed Buckley leaves no stone unturned as he doggedly attempts to crack a series of seemingly uncrackable codes and “red lights” that could possibly reveal Silver as the penultimate psychic fraud .
Through climatic scenes down hallway corridors and tense visual double takes, Buckley goes on the wild goose hunt of his life tracking down ways to crack Silver. Using scientific methods and procedures to try and dissolve Silver’s career, Buckley has to reexamine his own beliefs that are juxtaposed between fact-based science and the supernatural.
Though there is an intriguing plot line and unexpected twists in Red Lights, the weak dialogue does little to develop the characters. However, Murphy, Weaver, and De Niro find ways to push the plot along and give noteworthy performances which is a testament their artistry. Still, if De Niro and Murphy’s characters were more invested in the final scenes of the film, the climatic ending would have carried more weight.
The distraught, yet determined Buckley is a sharp departure for Murphy, who is known for his Scarecrow role in Batman Begins (2005) and Robert Fischer in Inception (2010). Playing dark and mysterious is nothing new to De Niro—consider roles in Raging Bull, Godfather II, and to some extent Casino. The Simon Silver character lives up to De Niro’s trademark screen characterizations of borderline psychotic personas, making the character believable. While Weaver’s background in the science fiction genre qualifies her for this type of role, director and writer Rodrigo Cortes has given her some great witty one-liners that gives insight into her personality and brings some levity to her character.
Along side startling video direction and a melodramatic sound mix, Red Lights lives up to its genre’s unpredictability. Writer and director Rodrigo Cortés (Buried) keeps you on the edge of your seat until the final unveiling of the masterful puzzle that audience members won’t forget.
Red Lights opens nationwide on July 20, 2012.