Directed by Rodrigo Cortes
With his follow up to surprisingly effective single location thriller Buried, Rodrigo Cortés has proven to be a director of considerable vision and ability. As a writer, however, his cleverly staged situations lack the kind of revelatory perspective that marks great storytelling. Red Lights is most potent when it focuses on the procedural concerns of a couple of "academic Ghostbusters," as star Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) so aptly puts it in the accompanying behind the scenes footage. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant, Tom Buckley (Murphy), travel the country on university funding to investigate various claims of paranormal activity. Challenging the often obviously duped claimants to demonstrate the phenomena under rigorous scientific control reveals a decidedly not supernatural cause in every single case. There is room to explore the psychological needs of people who would rather be scammed than face their mortality, but Cortés is more concerned with the mechanics of his grand-scale con than establishing personal motivations. To inject a sense of drama, Matheson's program is in danger of having its funding yanked when her white whale shows up. Simon Silver (a serviceable Roberto De Niro) is the anomaly she never had the chance to debunk, the one who shook her resolve. The world's most famous mentalist, Silver resurfaces after 30 years of retirement to stage a limited comeback tour. Matheson fears another confrontation with the wily performer, but Tom sees it as the perfect opportunity to put their work to the ultimate test. Red Lights, defined in the script as "discordant notes, things that shouldn't be there," is all about keeping an eye out for misdirection, and much like bedfellow The Sixth Sense, it's overly reliant on the impact of its eventual twist. Unlike Shyamalan's spooky thriller though, it's to the detriment of the journey. Cues are sloppy, hints are telegraphed and the result is underwhelming. Even so, Cortés demonstrates a flair for visual stylization, mixing the distracting trickery of a performance artist with the naturalism of a documentarian. In the disc's lone special feature, the filmmaker is very articulate about distilling the essence of his intentions. Hopefully the next story he constructs will have more substance to support his ambitious, but brittle architecture.
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