"A film that keeps its audiences guessing throughout..."
For Rodrigo Cortés, following on from his critically-acclaimed, innovative Hollywood début Buried is no easy task - but the Spanish director has put out a worthy effort in the form of psychological thriller Red Lights.
Leading the star-studded cast is Sigourney Weaver, who plays paranormal intellectual Margaret Matheson, a professor who is determined to prove that paranormal activity does not exist, and is merely a trick being played on the unsuspecting public from those claiming to have supernatural powers. Working alongside her colleague and close friend Tom (Cillian Murphy), the pair are aware that they must soon catch out a renowned psychic as their department is in need of funds, facing cynicism from fellow professionals.
Such thoughts just so happen to coincide with the return of the most renowned psychic on the planet Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) who finally prepares for some live shows following a lengthy spell in the shadows, following a controversial incident which saw his toughest critic suddenly, and mysteriously, pass away. Margaret has her doubts about challenging Silver, especially given their history, whereas Tom, alongside his girlfriend and student Sally (Elizabeth Olsen) is determined to prove Silver is a fraud.
Red Lights offers a brilliantly compelling premise, in a film that keeps its audiences guessing throughout. Right up until the bitter end you simply can't work out whether Tom and Margaret are right and that Silver is a pretender, or whether Silver does actually possess supernatural powers. Cortés sets the film up ingeniously in this respect, in a film that is designed for a twist, and as a result keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Yet for a film that is building up towards its great finale it requires a strong ending and sadly Red Lights suffers from a rather perplexing conclusion.
The film begins well, and there are a couple of enjoyable scenes as we watch Margaret and Tom uncover the fraud behind supposed paranormal activity. It's almost like the Hollywood version of The Real Hustle, but with ghosts. However the picture deteriorates as the film progresses, and the final half an hour is such a disappointment. It's a shame because the revelation at the end only seeks in making you question and dismantle everything that lay before it, undoing all of Cortés' good work. There is a definite sense of anti-climax that fills the air when the credits role, as the film simply leaves too much unexplained.
Fortunately the performances are mostly impressive, particularly by the more experienced members of the cast in De Niro and Weaver. It's a relief to see Weaver in a good role as she has become somewhat of a cameo queen in quite bad films in recent years, with appearances in films such as Cedar Rapids and Abduction to name just two - so it's nice to see her take on a leading role. De Niro is also brilliantly cast as Silver, this shady character safe in the hands of a man who almost invented such a role, reminiscent of his performance in Cape Fear, instilling fear and uncertainty in the audience.
Red Lights is an enticing and tense piece of cinema, and despite its shortcomings is certainly an enjoyable watch, if a little tedious during the latter stages. It just remains a shame that the ending lets itself down, because after all, a film’s finale does provide the lasting thoughts, and the ones which linger the longest.