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If you believe the assassination of a deputy secretary of homeland security would be a disaster of epic proportions, then you are among the intended audience for Red Eye. In Wes Craven’s latest, some bad guys want to off our little Tom Ridge Jr., and they’ve found just the unwilling accomplice to help them do it: kind-to-employees-and-old-ladies Miami hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams). Flying back from her grandmother’s funeral, Lisa is nonplused to learn that the nice, if creepy, guy with glacier-blue eyes who bought her Bay Breezes in the airport bar (Cillian Murphy) has also commandeered the seat next to her. Of course, he has an urgent business proposition: He’ll call off the hit man stationed outside her father’s house if she will phone her hotel and move Mr. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (Jack Scalia) and his family to a room with a better view—of some incoming missiles. Sadly, our sympathy with Lisa’s plight can extend only so far as our attachment to, on the one hand, minor government bureaucrats and, on the other, her father. The latter is glimpsed but briefly and played by onyx-orbed former Hannibal Lecter Brian Cox—not exactly the last word in Gemütlichkeit. It might have helped matters, too, if someone had explained the conventions of the airplane thriller to Craven—or at least to writers Carl Ellsworth and Dan Foos—much as the kids in the director’s Scream franchise used to hash out the rules of slasher pics. Rule 1: The plane’s successful landing should be in doubt. Rule 2: If you go to the trouble of creating identities for the main character’s fellow passengers, they should play a significant role in the later action. And Rule 3: No fair grounding the plane until the story’s good and ready to climax, no matter how much you may prefer terrestrial carnage. Red Eye is too taut to be dull, and the sadly dimpled McAdams makes a sufficiently winning and resourceful heroine, but let’s face it: When it comes to revving the terrorist-plot engine, no moviemaker of late has topped the folks who’ve so finely tuned 24. For moviegoers, television may still be the equivalent of tourist class, but Jack Bauer is now our co-pilot. —Louis Bayard