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Red Lights

Red Lights

Released 15 June 2012
Director Rodrigo Cortés

Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Joely Richardson, Toby Jones, Craig Roberts
Writer(s) Rodrigo Cortés
Producer(s) Rodrigo Cortés, Adrián Guerra
Origin Spain, United States
Running Time 113 minutes
Genre Thriller
Rating 15A

The seventh sense.

Films about the paranormal, the supernatural and psychic powers are nothing new, and on the surface Red Lights has all the old clichés. Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver play a pair of scientists investigating paranormal phenomena for a rational explanation, and more often than not, exposing them as hoaxes. They soon find themselves questioning their beliefs in a scientific explanation for everything when they encounter stage psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro).

While this scenario doesn’t suggest that there is anything unique about Red Lights, it is saved by some very strong performances. Murphy and Weaver have a fantastic Mulder and Scully-esque buddy cop chemistry. They also manage to bring surprising depth to their individual characters (who of course have their own personal demons which are brought to the surface during the course of their investigation). Similarly strong is Elizabeth Olsen (in her third film of 2012 no less) in a small but memorable supporting role. Elsewhere De Niro is criminally underused for such a strong actor, as he spends relatively little time on the screen due to the nature of his role. We hear about what Silver is capable of rather than seeing it, which, let’s face it, is much more of a tension builder.

While the acting is faultless, Red Lights has plenty of flaws elsewhere. There is an annoying reliance on shaky handheld camera shots, so that it seems like the camera is constantly moving, even when the characters are standing still. But the real problem with Red Lights is its conclusion.

A lot of comparisons have been drawn between Red Lights and The Sixth Sense. Both are supremely well acted psychological horror thrillers with a biting twist in the end, but ultimately Red Lights just doesn’t have the same impact. M. Night Shyamalan absolutely nailed the twist ending in The Sixth Sense, deftly executing an unexpected reveal which was a complete surprise but also plausible in context and well foreshadowed by the film’s plot. Red Lights’ conclusion is clumsily handled in comparison. While the twist is basically a good idea, the film fails to convey it in a way that seems natural. Something just doesn’t sit right, particularly when a previously unheard voiceover appears in the final moments to explain what just happened.

Despite a convoluted climax, Red Lights retains many of the hallmarks of a good thriller – most notably a set of characters with depth that the audience can relate to and care about, thanks to strong lead performances from all involved. There are plenty of plot holes that could be nit-picked on close examination, but Red Lights is too fast paced to get bogged down by any of this.

Provided the audience manages to maintain a healthy suspension of disbelief, Red Lights is an enjoyable thrill-ride, and one that manages to provide a couple of genuine shocks. It may not beat The Sixth Sense, but it’s certainly better than anything Shyamalan has done lately.

- Bernard O’Rourke