Blu-ray Review: Red Lights

Red Lights is a movie that many likely haven’t heard of, despite its rather strong cast. In fact, it’s the cast on the cover that will likely be the only thing that causes you to pick up this movie that was only released in 18 theaters during its theatrical run. Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro help bring this unique story to life in a way that will keep audiences second guessing everything they see and think, much like the marketing of the film suggests.

First let me talk about the first ten minutes, because when you’re watching it you’ll probably be cringing at how bad some of the acting is and how everything seems a bit too over the top. Believe me when I say that it gets better, and the overall cheesiness of the opening ten minutes is actually explained not long after that. The movie has a lot of fun with itself, and the actors involved also seemed to enjoy working on it, which reflects in their performances. They know when to take things seriously, and they know when to let themselves go with it.

The film is directed by Rodrigo Cortés, whose last film Buried was #3 on my top ten of 2010. While this one won’t rank as high, the skill and tricks Cortés used in both Buried and Red Lights show that this is a guy with a unique vision, and is someone I hope to see much more from in the future. There are some jump cuts during certain discussions, and various conversations may seem to end abruptly or change topic on a whim; however, this is all part of the style of the film, which aims to keep your thoughts jumping and your mind sharp.

The story follows a pair of paranormal hoax investigators, Dr. Margaret Matheson (Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Murphy), as they set out to debunk various frauds that take advantage of people with false hope of being able to see into the afterlife and talk to spirits. However, when the legendary blind psychic Simon Silver (De Niro) comes out of retirement after 30 years in seclusion, Matheson begins to lose her edge, and warns her assistant to stay away from him. Of course, this just causes Buckley to want to disprove Silver even more, regardless of the fact that he’s putting his life in danger by doing so.

As I mentioned above, the acting is strong when it needs to be, but those involved also understand the kind of movie they’re making. It’s not a B-grade movie by any means. However, it’s also not trying to be overly serious either. It’s a movie that everyone involved looks to have had fun with, playing these characters and adding levels of intrigue and wonder where they could. It’s a guessing game of sorts that we play along with the characters, and it works well.

Weaver is perfect as Matheson, and really brings a strong female presence to a part that needed one in order to make the story work. Her change from confident and charismatic to someone who actually seems to fear Silver when he shows back up really helps sell the ideas behind the film. And while the story focuses on both Matheson and Buckley, Murphy really takes the film onto his shoulders and sells it as the engrossing tale it is. He’s one of the more interesting actors around today, and his work here showcases once again why that is.

While De Niro is on the cover, his character is more supporting than lead; he has a powerful presence throughout nonetheless. While there’s no denying De Niro hasn’t always made the best decisions in terms of films to star in, his role in Red Lights is actually really interesting, and he plays it very well (while his movies sometimes come into question, his talent never does). He adds the huge, ominous threat needed to push the story forward, which is the reason Cortés sought him out. Also, one of the best, and one of my favourite actresses in the industry today, Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marlene) plays a small role in the film. Even though it’s a minor part, just seeing her around makes the overall casting of this film that much stronger.

The thing with Red Lights is that not everyone will like the directions the story takes throughout the film — especially towards the final act. I thought it actually made the movie as a whole that much stronger; however, this seems to be where audience opinion splits. My review is based off a single viewing, which had me pretty much engrossed throughout, and since the main basis of the story is that of a magician’s tricks and knowing where to keep your eyes, it would take another viewing (which I’m eager to do at some point) to see if the film holds up under the scrutiny of someone who now knows the secret to all the tricks. That said, Red Lights – much like Buried – deserves more of an audience than it received during its brief, almost non-existent theatrical run, and I recommend you check it out and see which side of the fence you fall on.

The audio and video transfers of this film are strong, with the sound really standing out above all. The video transfer is crisp, with sharp images that highlight the strong shadows and variously lit scenes, and the sound amps those up dramatically. The sound comes through powerfully, and really gives off an unnerving sense whenever it’s meant to. Very well done on both fronts.

Turning on the Red Lights: (Making of) – This is a quick, 10-minute behind-the-scenes piece where Cortés talks about how the film came to be and such. Being a foreign director, the parts where he speaks are sub-titled, though still interesting. Weaver, Murphy and De Niro all talk about what drew them to the script and their experiences working with Cortés.

Red Lights is an example of why you should sometimes step out of your comfort zone and risk seeing a movie that you haven’t heard of, or one that may have bombed at the box office. It’s not always a guarantee that you’ll strike gold, as sometimes there’s a reason for the bombing or you havening not heard of it; however, that’s not the case here, as Red Lights is one of those hidden gems that should be given a chance if you’re in the mood for something that isn’t afraid to step out of the norm.

Alliance Films presents Red Lights. Written and Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen. Running time: 114 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: October 2, 2012. Available at

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