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Red Lights - DVD Review

Red Lights

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

RODRIGO Cortes’ first film since the critically-acclaimed Buried is an intriguing affair that sadly loses its way after a very promising start.

The film follows paranormal investigators Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) and Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) as they travel around the US debunking seances and performers who would seek to profit from other people’s misfortune by suggesting supernatural connections.

When enigmatic blind spoon-bender Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) suddenly decides to come out of retirement for one last series of shows 30 years after a performance in which one of his harshest critics was killed Tom can’t resist investigating him against the better judgement of Margaret.

But the deeper Tom becomes embroiled in Silver’s world, the more danger he finds himself in as strange things begin to happen.

Early on, Cortes’ film grips like a vice in the way that it playfully finds Tom and Margaret exposing various cheats of the paranormal trade while building their own relationship and slowly easing in the threat posed by Silver’s return.

As such, the film relies on performance more than theatrics, with both Murphy and Weaver on tip-top form. Weaver, especially, is a fascinating character… a fiercely driven woman whose desire not to believe in the paranormal requires as much focus as those who do, yet whose own tragic past gives rise to a chink in her armour and a prior connection to Silver.

Murphy, too, does well in transitioning from eager cub scout to obsessive, while De Niro is suitably creepy and difficult to read as Silver.

Once the film reaches its halfway point, however, it switches tactics and moves into more straight-forward horror territory, throwing in strange happenings all over the place and successfully creating a sense of unease that gives rise to at least one or two big jumps.

But the attention paid to characterisation begins to slip, while the clever last act reveal that audiences may have been anticipating eventually errs more on the side of the utterly ridiculous. Some may buy into it, others may feel completely cheated, while possibly coming to view the film in the same light as Tom and Margaret view the people they are investigating.

It’s a shame given that there is so much to admire in Red Lights, whether in the quality of the performances (Toby Jones and Elizabeth Olsen support included) or the direction, which often builds on the good work Cortes displayed with Buried.

As is so often the case with films nowadays, though, the most fun is to be had in the journey rather than reaching its end. But there’s still plenty to see and enjoy along the way.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 119mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: October 22, 2012