Red Lights | Movie review
A new thriller from the director of Buried should get that way.
Real filmmakers and actors signed off on Red Lights’ ending, a groaner near-unprecedented in its idiocy. The upshot is, indeed, so unspeakably stupid it nullifies the entire film (and may take out a few careers along with it). Until then, Red Lights qualifies as an engrossing and novel spin on the supernatural thriller, atmospherically directed by Rodrigo Cortés (2010’s exceptional Buried). Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy play Margaret Matheson and Tom Buckley, renowned parapsychologists who specialize in finding scientific explanations for so-called supernatural phenomena. Most of their work consists of traveling from place to place and rooting out charlatans with stage shows. The big fish they yearn to catch is celebrity medium Simon Silver (a miscast Robert De Niro), who’s apparently so famous that cable news covers him (and little else?) 24/7. He’s been tested by scientists before, but no one has been able to prove he lacks the powers he claims.
Much of the film’s intrigue stems from watching Margaret and Tom expose psychics’ ingenious stagecraft. (As their student sidekick, Elizabeth Olsen is on hand strictly to spout exposition.) The film sometimes plays as a skeptic’s Ghostbusters; one scene, in which Margaret demonstrates how her boss (Toby Jones) was duped in a card trick, is clearly an homage. In the second half, Cortés’s script descends into a pseudo-Lynchian mush, but even that doesn’t break the spell. And then…the finale. You won’t guess the ending; anything you have in mind is smarter.