Buried it 'aint...
As part of a team debunking fraudulent psychics, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) is trying to find a person with real, supernatural talents. When he comes up against world famous psychic Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) things take a turn for the sinister.Rodrigo Cortesis fondly remembered around the Click offices as the helmer behind Buried – one of 2010s finest features, with an Oscar-worthy performance from Ryan Reynolds. Produced on a budget of less than $2 million, Buried was a sensation – making us all the more excited for Corteslatest.Red Lights is, first and foremost, a markedly different film from Buried. The large cast and higher budget (still under $15 million) is matched by a wider scale and much bigger ideas – with themes that take in faith and the notion of the supernatural in the everyday world. With a top notch cast and a self penned script, Corteshad free reign to put his unique stamp on a film that could see him break through to a wider audience.
Instead, he seems intent on making Red Lights as unappealing as possible. It all starts with a genre appropriate pre-credits sting, a case which sees Buckley and lead investigator Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) checking out a family with some spooky problems. It’s a nice enough scene, (complete with a preposterous red glow) but the punchline is curiously muted, a fact the film tries to mitigate with an over the top title sequence that thinks it’s in a Hitchcock number.
The film continues, plodding through cases and introducing Robert DeNiro’s Silver as the granddaddy of the psychics. But the scientists work so hard to dispel every possible mystery that the film never capitalises on its potentially creepy tone, before spiralling off into eccentric nonsense.
The problems stem most obviously from Cortes’ script, which seems unable or unwilling to relay any emotion or drama. Buried was penned by Hollywood Blacklist veteran Chris Sparling and Cortes did a remarkable job there but botches his own work – supporting characters are dull and the dialogue is often laughable. But he also can’t seem to figure out how to presents his ideas in a way which promotes intrigue, or even interest, leaving the film feeling awkward and underdeveloped.Red Lights scores at least one decent set piece and some token dread as the narrative meanders well into its second hour. Then, predictably, it throws two pretty major twists at the audience. The first is remarkably stupid while the second wants you to think it has been cleverly signposted but feels rudimentary – while the questioning tone of the ending may appeal to some, if you’re still awake.Corteshas put together a fine cast for Red Lights. Murphy, in his first high profile lead role since 2007s Sunshine, does his all to make Buckley engaging and succeeds to an extent – until the character’s final act histrionics. Weaver is dull and one dimensional and there’s support from the dependable (but underused) Elizabeth Olsen and an tiresome turn from Submarine’s Craig Roberts. And then there’s DeNiro, playing a blind psychic with a sinister side and still managing to capture no menace or zeal.Buried was a masterful second feature but Rodrigo Corteshas over-reached for his most recent effort – relying heavily on his own lacklustre script and not taking the time to iron out a decent story. The top drawer cast is mostly wasted and the twists are frustrating and obvious respectively – while doing nothing to invigorate this turgid and overlong film.