Review: Red Lights

PUBLISHED: 09:14 18 June 2012

Red Lights

Red Lights


Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy are psychologists who pair up to debunk supposed incidents of paranormal activities.They are underfunded and little loved by their university but the debunking is straightforward and all seems reasonably well.

Then Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), America’s pre-eminent mystic, a cross between Yuri Geller and David Blaine, announces he is returning to the stage after a 30-year retirement and their relationship becomes strained.

They are Non-Believers and in Hollywood films the only thing that can never be denied is belief. It doesn’t particularly matter what the belief is in – God, the Force, UFOs, following your dreams, the American way, that You Can Do It – but adherence to the mantra is total and the Non- Believer must always be shown the error of their ways. All of which would seem to leave Red Lights rather hamstrung as a thriller, being a foregone conclusion.

Red Lights though offers up hope of the unexpected if only because his previous film, the Ryan-Reynolds-stuck-in-a-box thriller Buried, showed that Cortez is a man with a taste for the unconventional and a director who might not wimp out in the end.

The film starts out brightly enough. At times the ruses being seen through seem a little simplistic and Toby Jones as the well- funded researcher into the paranormal is an unworthy rival but it keeps you involved.

After an hour the story throws in a bold and unexpected development which catches the viewer totally off guard, but is also the moment the plot begins to take ever bolder lurches in the realms of silly.

While Cortés is adept at making a film in a box, he’s a lot less comfortable in the open and a lot of the scenes are poorly staged. (There is a scene of Silver 30 years earlier that is hilariously bad – the young Silver resembles a Henry Kissinger lookalike in dark glasses doing some Woody Allen-style shrugs and hand gestures with the present-day De Niro’s voice dubbed over him.)

The film’s running time has steadily been cut down since debuting at Sundance in January, presumably in an attempt to pick up the pace but it has been done at the price of a lot of narrative coherence. It’s one of those films where you often wonder if something is ambiguous or just plain doesn’t make sense.


Director: Rodrigo Cortés

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones and Joely Richardson

Length: 108 mins


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