Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.
I know D picked this off the shelf because of the stellar cast; Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver (generally reliable in everything they do), Cillian Murphy (I’ve been a fan since 28 Days Later…), Toby Jones (you may not recognize the name, but you’ll know his face), and the adorable Elizabeth Olsen (Younger sister of the Olsen twins, cuter, better actress. She’s been making a splash lately. That’s her->)
The Seattle Times seems to appreciate that cast, too:
Weaver is forbiddingly grim and focused as Matheson, and Murphy is the personification of haunted unease as her colleague. De Niro, in one of his most effective performances in years, is at once diabolical and silken in manner as Silver. His character may be blind, but he gives the impression of being able to see into the souls of his adversaries.
I was not blown away by De Niro’s performance but, considering some of the roles he has tackled lately, it may well be “one of his most effective performances in years”
There has been a glut of movies celebrating paranormal activity recently, whether to scare us or enlighten us. What sets this film apart is the skeptical focus it puts on psychics and faith healers, pulling back the curtain on their “gifts”.
Perhaps this viewpoint held extra intrigue for me, a longtime fan of The Amazing Randi and his skeptics shows. As much as I enjoy as good magician, and prefer not to know their tricks, I appreciate being reminded that it doesn’t hurt to maintain a healthy skepticism in life.
I wish they had given us a bit more along that line but, once they set the debunking premise, I suppose we didn’t need more. They also give us enough of Simon Silver to know he is creepy, and could be dangerous – at least to our heroes. Though the reason for the ‘danger’ is merely glossed over.
One of the highlights early in the movie is Eugenio Mira doing an over-the-top, cabaret impression of Robert De Niro in a flashback scene of the young Simon Silver. It’s as if director Rodrigo Cortés wanted to give us a bit of fun so found a nightclub impressionist and turned him loose. I found it an amusing nod to his star’s stature.
Red Lights manages to entertain and hold your attention to nearly the end, when it all goes horribly wrong.
The ending, alas, erases much of what was good in the movie. In attempting to pull off a clever twist, they expose the flaws & weakness in the story. To steal a quote, “The only way to pull a rabbit out of a hat is to put it there first.”
Spoilers may be in the rest of my review, so don’t scroll if you don’t want to know…
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 29%; Audience 36%
In trying to give us a Sixth Sense type ending, Cortés forgets why that movie worked so well – it followed the rules it had set up. Once you know the secret, you can go back through the entire movie and realize Shyamalan never lied to us. He gave us all the clues and stayed true to the world he had created.
The ending of Red Lights negates almost everything we’ve been told so far. And in giving us flashbacks through the story, they make that sad fact even more clear.
Still; mostly enjoyable, mostly entertaining, mostly gore & foul language free. (There is a bizarre, brutal, and completely out of place fight in a bathroom – but that is part of the disappointing end, so…just add that one in there)