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Red Lights is an American thriller written and directed by Rodrigo Cortes, the Spanish film maker, who is more widely known for his 2010 movie 'Buried'. Due to Cortes directing this movie it is often touted as a joint Spanish and American production and was released to cinemas in Spain. After debuting at numerous film festivals at the start of this year it went on to be released on a small scale to cinemas across America and eventually worldwide. The movie was known as 'Luces Rojas' in Cortes' native Spain.
The story centres on Thomas Buckley (Cillian Murphy) who is a qualified physicist and works as an assistant for renowned academic and paranormal debunker, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver). Matheson has spent the last thirty years investigation paranormal phenomena and has not yet once come across a case that could not be explained in one way or another. The opening scene of the movie gives us a glimpse at what Buckley and Matheson do at a séance with a so-called medium who is trying to rid a family of a presence in their home.
At the same time as this we see the re-emergence of a former psychic and medium from the sixties named Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) who more than thirty years later has decided to make a comeback. He is infamous for his arch enemy, a reporter and sceptic, dying at one of his shows with a heart attack. Silver retired after that show and has been a recluse ever since. He is also blind.
Buckley wants to go after Silver to finally give them the credit they deserve for their work but Matheson warns him that he is messing with a dangerous man. Matheson will always go out of her way to disprove these charlatans but in the early seventies in a meeting with Silver she experienced the only encounter that has troubled her. Silver told her something about her child, which raised her suspicions of how far these people go to gain knowledge of their victims in order to cheat them. Her little boy collapsed at four years old and has been in a coma for thirty years.
What ensues is a fast paced tale of deceit, con men and thankfully a plot that finally shows these idiots up for what they really are; fakes!
But this story holds a twist that is quite tantalising although obviously based on fiction, which every good story should be after all. I won't give away anything here as it would kill the film for you if you haven't seen it. Let's just say that not everything is as it seems.
Firstly, let me say that any film that debunks these morons for what they are immediately gets a tick in my book. For the life of me I can't understand why people are gullible enough to think that these people can actually talk to their dead relatives. I know that many people reading this will disagree with me because someone has told them something no one could possibly know but believe me, they knew and they found out somehow. The mediums and palm readers in tents at fairgrounds have a system and a gang of people working the grounds. They follow people, listen in on conversations and make notes in books. This is all passed on through whatever means they have at hand and before the 'customer' even enters the tent they know what you're hoping to hear. Mediums have had people track down ticket buyers from their addresses and weeks before the show they will have been through peoples dustbins, acted as postmen, door to doors and a numerous array of other methods, in order to find out anything they can.
Hypnotists also play on people's gullibility and the simple fact is you cannot be hypnotised if you don't want to. People cannot read minds. People cannot see through walls. One famous or should I say infamous TV medium claims to hear children's thoughts. Rubbish! One woman can talk to dead horses; well, good look with that! It is all a massive con to enable them to get rich off other peoples misery and gullibility. I would just like to point out that not one person in history has been able to substantiate their claims under rigorous testing. The inconclusive results usually mean that the people doing the test could not find the clever way that the participant had beaten the system. You only have to look at the way some magic has been shown for what it is by the likes of Penn and Teller and The Unknown magician.
Magicians all over the world hate these people because they have shown them up for the charlatans they are. On this argument you're either a person who believed that David Copperfield made a jumbo jet disappear or you're a person who knew he didn't and couldn't care less anyway. No prizes for guessing which category I fall into. I could go on but that would detract from the movie.I thought Cillian Murphy was really good in this movie. It was a bit of a different role for him as we usually see him playing a bad guy or someone evil. He gets this role absolutely bang on and comes across exactly how he is supposed to on screen. There are some hard-hitting scenes and one brutal fight scene, which, to pardon a pun, pulls no punches. His scenes with DeNiro are brilliant and you really could cut the tension with a knife.
Sigourney Weaver is her usual confident self and playing a woman, Margaret Matheson, who exudes confidence but is quite fragile underneath it all. I like Sigourney and although she is not butt-kicking any aliens in this movie she comes across as the accomplished actor she is.
Robert DeNiro needs no introduction and he still has that air about him. To hear him talk even when he is acting, makes you feel like you could be listening to any average Joe; but that is the beauty of DeNiro. He can turn it on at the drop of a hat. The scenes where his character has to stand on a stage and talk to a thousand people are carried out with consummate ease. I'll always be a DeNiro fan so perhaps I am a little biased but the guy can still hold your attention and let's not forget that Bobby is sixty-nine years old now. For such an accomplished and legendary actor the best thing about DeNiro is that he keeps it simple. The critics have basically slated him and said that is career is in a downward spiral, but, like I said, give the guy a break, he sixty-nine and has been acting for longer than most of the critics have been alive. Maybe this movie will be seen as another step backwards for him but I disagree and felt that he did a good job.Elizabeth Olsen plays the part of a student, Sally Owen, who is a big fan of her teacher Matheson and builds a relationship of sorts with Buckley.
Leonardo Sbaraglia does a decent job as a psychic and medium named Palladino. The scenes with him on stage as they try to debunk him are very well played out.
Rodrigo Cortes has done a good job directing this movie and his screenplay holds up to a certain extent. There are a few plot holes and the ending could've have been better. The movie's saving grace is the actors and they keep the plot rolling along, when it may have fell apart with lesser actors. There is, of course, the obvious fact that believers of this mumbo-jumbo will be on his back over him trashing their hard work but I suppose they can always turn to pick-pocketing or the long con to get their kicks. Overall I thought the movie was structured well and flowed along nicely. It is essentially a thriller and has a nice twist to it that helps keep you interested until the end. It is by no means a fantastic film but it not a bad film or a run-of-the-mill film either. I would say it is enjoyable and I was interested even more for the reasons I have mentioned, the fact that it shows these emotional muggers up for what they really are.
There is a really good scene with Sigourney Weaver and a scientist where she totally disproves his months' work in thirty seconds; priceless and a perfect example of how even scientists can be gullible when the want or need to believe outweighs the simple facts of the matter.
I think many people will find the film dull due to the fact that a plot normally tackles the paranormal from a believer's point of view and they are treated to something mysterious and unexplained. Cortes' movie, for me, makes you think and also makes you realise that most stuff can be explained easily if you open your eyes. It also still holds some modicum of suspense in the fact that we don't know if Silver is the real deal or a fake until the end of the movie and the twist adds that little bit of wonderment and an underlying question to the fold.
The score to the movie was written by Victor Reyes, who also worked with Cortes on 'Buried'.
The standard DVD contains the following extras:
"Making of Red Lights" (10:41) contains production footage, comments from the director and the cast, interviews, and a few remarks from Spanish crew members (which are translated in subtitles).
"Behind the Scenes" (1:58) offers B-roll clips from the filming of three scenes that show Cortés directing in Spanish and English.
"Cast Interviews" (11:38) gathers thoughts on the film, the characters, the director, production in Barcelona, and the paranormal from Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, and Elizabeth Olsen.
"Director's Interview" (5:41) Rodrigo Cortés speaks in English about his film, its themes, the characters and cast, and his preference for physical horror over supernatural horror.
The DVD starts with trailers for The 'Babymakers', 'Intruders', and 'The Paperboy'. The Previews menu supplies access to each of those, as well as the Red Lights theatrical trailer.
The movie's budget was an estimated fourteen million and it made just over half of that back from the box office, albeit with a limited release.
The movie runs for 113 minutes.
It is available from all good DVD stockist and online stores and is relatively cheap to buy. It can be picked up for as little as ninety-nine pence.I give this movie three out of five stars. Some good acting performances and good direction but the plot could've been a little stronger and more defined.
'Red Lights' is an American supernatural mystery/thriller directed by Rodrigo Cortes (director of 'Buried') and released in cinemas in June 2012 and out on Blu-ray/DVD in October 2012. The film is given a guidance certificate of 15 because of some of its spooky content and runs for an hour and 53 minutes. It is rated an impressive 6.2 out of 10 on IMDB and its cast of Robert DiNiro, Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy may have something to do with that.
The title of the film 'Red Lights' comes about as a terms the paranormal researchers use to describe the tricks and illusions used by fraudulent psychics and faith healers as a way to get people into thinking they have a special power and do extraordinary things. The plot revolves around these two sceptics that are physicians and their thoughts about these mind-reading people. But things start to get out of hand, when famous psychic Simon Silver comes back into the public after many years of being away and one of the physicians has an urgent need to investigate Silver's work however the other is not so keen and we later learn what had been troubling each of them in connection to their relation with Simon Silver.
Beginning: I had no idea what to expect from 'Red Lights' before I began watching it and other than the fact that I knew it was a spooky suspense flick with a big cast, I was keenly looking forward to what was in store, hoping it was mostly entertaining and contained nice surprises since the film's promotional poster/DVD cover looked great. The nice thing about the start of the film is that it doesn't hang about too long trying to build up the right kind of tone or mood - it already all seemed great from the very first scene and it just dives into the action very quickly. Here we see the two physicists/psychologists Dr Margaret Matherson (Sigourney Weaver) and Dr Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) visiting a haunted house in which a family have just moved in and this is where they are to perform a séance which gets the film rolling really nicely. From this first scene you've nearly gotten used to what is going to be expected from the rest of the film and it's almost like you would never expect a film with a start like this to ever get dull. It was creepy, interesting and suspenseful and unlike many other horror-suspense flicks, it was difficult to tell what was about to happen next.
The story: This film has a great story idea - this is not totally surprising that a film like this will bring you a thought-provoking idea since viewers would have expected something imaginative and exciting mostly because of the way it was sold to us. However less than half way through the film, I couldn't help feel slightly disappointed. It had real potential to be very good but it turns out to be quite a boring representation of the idea that 'Red Light's' is trying to tell us . The strong point in terms of story for me was the controversial topic idea of demystifying the 'truth' behind psychic powers (and people with paranormal powers) and also that there is a twist in the story which I did not expect. It was nice to know, as I reached towards the conclusion of the story, that while watching the film there was something hidden from us and revealed later on to totally change what we knew. So on the whole, the story idea is appealing, it might not be that much of an original idea more generally as there are so many films that have done this many times before but I have to say here it does feel like an original idea in a few ways - as if no other film has used it before. Last thing I have to add is about the promotional poster referring to 'Red Lights' as the new 'Sixth Sense' - although it has the same kind of quality as that film, I think it really does not compare in terms of the amazing and surprising plot and spine-chilling timeless twist in which the story of 'Sixth Sense' brought to us.
Characters: The film has great actors and clearly is one of main reasons a film like this would do so well. The acting is as anyone would have expected - the believability is spot-on and the strength in the performance is terrific, but what really came across poorly, like I covered above, was the way in which the story was told which then made the actors come across badly - these actors who normally do a good job in any other film seemed to have acted out a poor plot well. There are three main characters that the story revolves around: Robert DeNiro's character - a world-famous blind psychic called Simon Silver - convincing name and only a small part in the film. However his role is hardly as exciting as you would have initially thought it could be. You wait patiently for DeNiro's first appearance but after that it is mostly tedious - it might as well have been any other actor and not DeNiro playing that part. Either way though, he does definitely help bring out a puzzling character here and the psychic is so creepy - we learn bits about him as the film goes along but we can never really make sense of the person he is until we reach the end. Then there is Sigourney Weaver's character, the paranormal sceptic and physician who strongly believes against the work of fraudulent mind readers and faith healers. She has a very strong character and personality and her performance of this is persuasive and also likeable to viewers. She works with her assistant physician Cillian Murphy, whose character Tom Buckley, I thought was the most impressive. Maybe this is because as it turns out he has a slightly more of a leading role than the DeNiro and Weaver, and I think his acting of a guy who is mixed up is absorbing - I actually thought even though most people would not even bother with this film nor even care he appears in it, it is still one of Cillian Murphy's best roles. Finally Elizabeth Olsen also features playing the part of one of the students who takes interest in the work of Matherson and Buckley, and an interest in Buckley himself.
The mystery / themes: Obviously this film revolves around a lot of obscurity and so there are lots of dark secrets, giving the film a sinister and bleak tone. The characters have dark pasts, we are let in on this helping with the character development - for example Matherson is troubled and it is interesting to hear her 'haunting' past experiences in life. But the obscurity behind other characters is set aside for a treat later on. Thematically, there are issues of science, reality/truth vs. fiction, love and death, faith healing, medical illnesses /comatose patients and the afterlife. It seems all areas are covered to get the viewers thinking and engrossed into its topics. The scenes within the film generally feel slow-moving and even though all are actually very relevant to the story and the story does keep moving along, the problem really starts unexpectedly when it all just becomes dull to watch and as much as you are drawn in by the interesting ideas, the story telling is poor, so you could find yourself fading away sooner than you would have liked. There are some bits of violence in the film and a few creepy happenings which suddenly allow things to liven up once again, but this was still not enough to make it super exciting and suspenseful.
Special effects: The digital effects in the film, especially towards the end look stunning. CGI is always great in any film and I love those great ott mid-blowing effects especially when they really do look spectacular and enhance the impact of the plot we're seeing. As much as the CGI here was great here, it also however distracted me from concentrating on the story, because already the plotline seems to be a little bit astray. Brilliant CGI will let you forget it is artificially created because you will be wrapped up in the film, but the effects here just had the impact of just feeling quite mediocre overall. Special effects here revolved around explosions, dramatic glass shattering, smoke and fire, and all of this over theatrical music to go with the effects of course. Other more standard effects we get to see in the film revolve around things such as Silver's blindness, some spoon bending or the effect of watching a research documentary within the film to give it that effect of reality.
Ending: The conclusion which is the twist at the end of the film is the big deal to this story, but the problem was it really did not feel as important as maybe it should have been made to feel because it was not made to feel very surprising at all and only a short amount of time was spent on it - in turn it was not very memorable. This was the twist that should have been spooky enough to send shivers down our spines and given it its 'Sixth Sense' comparison - but I do think that some might like it more than myself. So on the whole 'Red Lights' just turns out to give off an interestingly ending - it's likeable but it was not the highlight of the film for me. Either way though Cillian Murphy's involvement in the last part of the film was the best way to go. The ending where a twist is revealed mostly consists of a few flashbacks into events we have already seen in the film. I couldn't have said I saw it coming, and it was nicely kept under-wraps, so you probably wouldn't have been able to predict it.
After watching the film from the opening credits to the closing, I would be lying if I said I was not interested in knowing what was about to happen in every scene following and how the film was finally going to conclude. So one thing is for sure, even if the film may be disappointing, it does keep you holding on interested in knowing more and this could be because of the persuasive acting and the interesting themes and topic, I don't really know, but I still can't understand why a film like this is so highly rated. So in the end, I think I have decided that this is the type of film people are either going to really enjoy and appreciate because they can relate to what the story is trying to tell us and the originality to the style of the film and others like myself are just going to expect a more upbeat pace and thrilling mystery, with lots of twists and turns, shocks and horrors which 'Red Lights' really does not bring us! It may just be a good idea to get hold of the film and watch it for yourself as you never know which direction you might go with this one - in which case you should just ignore everything I've talked about in this review. This one might just be your thing.