© Wild Bunch/Central

Red Lights
Spain/U.S.A. 2012

Opening 9 Aug 2012

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés
Writing credits: Rodrigo Cortés
Principal actors: Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones

This thriller centers on psychology, paranormal activity, and their interplay with societal conceptions of reality. The renowned psychologist Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) study and expose purported phenomena using what she terms “red lights” – the subtle trickery behind most claims. Following one investigation, she tells Tom, “(you) could have a brilliant career” yet admits she “couldn’t go on without you”. Concurrently, TV news expound about the celebrated blind parapsychologist Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), who will perform locally in three weeks after a 30-year self-imposed hiatus. Sally (Elizabeth Olsen), a gifted student who catches Tom’s eye, at his insistence begins assisting them. Dr. Paul Shackleton (Toby Jones) with the University’s Scientific Paranormal Research Center constantly asks Margaret to join him: “I don’t do hocus pocus Shackleton and I suggest you don’t either”; with over 30-years experience Margaret has never encountered a paranormal phenomenon.

Cuts shift our focus, suspense mounts: paranormal performances, Silver’s maneuvering, mysterious occurrences, private fears put into words, abnormal electrical and technical activity, a TV interview where Silver’s callous assistant Monica (Joely Richardson) assails Margaret, “What do you believe in…what happened to turn you into this lost lonely woman?” – tension intensifies: Tom insists on investigating and exposing Silver as a fraud, Margaret’s strong, controlled self-assured demeanor falters, Margaret’s ominous warning – a peak is reached, and…

There is additional information surrounding Tom, illusive sightings, break-ins, Sally helping classmate Ben (Craig Roberts) who is helping Tom, beatings, and a grand finale.

We are committed and enthralled as the story peaks, and then abruptly backpedals. Why did Rodrigo Cortés, screenplay and director and editor, not insert this additional information, i.e. Tom, Silver’s shenanigans “we all try to be something we’re not”, into the story line sooner? He could have – schade. Even so the story, with the great veterans Oscar© nominated Weaver and winner De Niro and their exceptional fellow thespians, underscored by Víctor Reyes’ original music and Xavi Giménez’s cinematography, is thrilling. But…

Cortés makes up for his detour by putting us in the audience for Silver’s last live performance, and it is a doozy. The clues have been there, now they make sense: “You can’t deny yourself forever”. Cortés press notes clarify: “We see what we want to see. We believe what we want to believe.” Hence go see, decide what you want to believe, and enjoy. (Marinell Haegelin)

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