If you're like I used to be and you've experienced the occasional bout of insomnia, then you've more than likely found yourself flipping through the channels at three or four o'clock in the morning hoping to get tired sooner or later. During this time, you might have seen infomercials talking about psychics or shows showing televangelist who magically heal people with life-threatening illnesses. I've seen things like that on television years ago, but I never thought anyone would make a movie about people like that. Apparently, writer/director Rodrigo Cortés thought that doing just that was a good idea and that's why we have the movie Red Lights.
In the story written by Cortés, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are paranormal investigators who make a living disproving supernatural powers and exposing the fraudulent people who claim to have them at their disposal. They believe that these abnormal occurrences are impossible and that everything has to have a logical explanation connected to it. This team has taken on and embarrassed plenty of pretenders, but there is Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), someone who Matheson refuses to go after. Against Matheson's wishes, Buckley and his understudy Sally (Elizabeth Olsen) decide to investigate him anyway. That decision may be prove costly though, and it may give them some answers that they might not want to hear.
Red Lights is a weird movie for me to review. After watching it, I was left with very little to really speak about, because it didn't have much to offer in a positive or negative way. We watch these investigators ply their trade and attempt to expose potential frauds, and we also learn a bit about the characters involved and a few of their motives over the course of the film. From there we witness some supernatural activity that may or may not be legitimate and it seems that these investigators are getting deeper and deeper into something that they don't know about. This is where Cortés tries to add some suspense to the movie, but it never quite gets there in my opinion.
The movie itself was flat and it doesn't accomplish what it set out to accomplish. There are multiple scenes in Red Lights that lead you to believe that the movie will start to get going and the movie will be decent at the very least, but those instances would always amount to nothing due to the fact that it would always seem that the script would always find its way back to mediocrity. This is due in large part to the failed attempts at suspense that I was speaking of. It's hit or miss and many of its hits are eventually fruitless and don't do much as far as furthering or improving on the plot.
This movie does boast a cast that has some acting credentials. You have a blend of veterans like Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver mixed in with the younger but established Cillian Murphy and the relatively new Elizabeth Olsen. With all of what I would consider to be legitimate acting talent, the director of this movie render the cast useless. Their characters aren't very good and Olsen in particular had very little to actually do except stand in the background and make a comment every once in a while. The others did what they could, but you could feel the lifeless script pulling the movie down despite their efforts.
While there aren't that many positives in Red Lights, I will say that the end is nice and it's better than anything else that's shown in the film. It contains a big twist that is at least a fine pay off for your viewing patience and it also helps to explain some of the things that occur throughout the entire film. There is an issue here however. Although the film's climax is intriguing and it does answer some questions, it also creates more questions when you think the movie over and many of those can't be answered if you tried. As much as I like this part of the movie, it blew a large amount of the story out-of-order and pushes the movie into non-sensical territory.
In an awkward way, this ending that I think of as having good quality actually hurts Red Lights as a whole when you connect it to all of the previous scenes that came before it. There's a big trade-off here and it's highly unlikely Cortés didn't see coming beforehand. You get a nice ending, but you lose so much else when that ending forces the movie not to make much sense at all. As a member of the audience, you sit through this film that doesn't contain anything that ever reaches anywhere near above average only to find yourself wondering how certain characters in the movie missed so many signs that are obvious from the outset and other signs that should have been obvious from the outset. The movie was at least average to slightly below average for me at first, but it took a dip from my point of view after taking the whole thing in.
I honestly wanted to like Red Lights, because I enjoy watching films explore the possibilities of the paranormal and the supernatural. I also wanted it to be some good, because it also had a couple of actors that I think highly of in the savvy veteran Robert De Niro and the rising newcomer Elizabeth Olsen. The truth is, no matter how much I wanted it to succeed, it just wasn't a worthwhile experience. The execution is flawed and it appears to be suffering from a sub par script. There's only one person to blame here for these innate flaws that flow through Red Lights, and that's the director who just happened to write it as well. He wanted a smart psychological thriller, but what he got was something that wasn't smart, psychological or the least bit thrilling.
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Robert De Niro
Film Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: July 13, 2012 (Limited)
Distributor: Millenium Entertainment