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“Red Lights” (2012) Review

Red Lights poster

In viewing the trailer for “Red Lights”, I was instantly hooked. Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, and Robert De Niro together in a thriller focused around psychic activity is a combination I could not refuse. That being said, I still didn’t know what to expect from the film. Would Cortes take a horror-style approach, or make it more of a mystery thriller? In the end, I was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome of his film, as “Red Lights” is an outstanding thriller.

You could say “Red Lights” is broken up into two parts. Those would be a foundational story about the two main protagonists, Murphy and Weaver, and the struggle between the protagonists and the central antagonist, De Niro. The first section is quite interesting as the pair of psychologists investigate various people involved with psychic phenomena or powers. This dissection of the paranormal is wonderfully executed and each investigation, no matter how short, has the viewer trying to figure out the mystery along with the psychologists. The second act takes a different turn, as the movie becomes more of a thriller. A tense battle takes place between the rational stance taken by Murphy and Weaver and the sense of the unknown in the form of De Niro’s character. This challenge to prove/disprove De Niro’s “powers” becomes quite enthralling and is made even more interesting when you see the ending. The ending, though, is where the film really comes together and becomes even more compelling, despite what some have said.

Prior to seeing the film, I had personally not heard anything about the film outside of what I saw in the trailer. After seeing “Red Lights”, I noticed how many people were completely turned off by the ending. I absolutely do not want to spoil anything (and, as such, I recommend going into the film without looking at too many articles to avoid any spoilers), but the ending makes perfect sense, and in the context of the whole film’s themes, is fitting (paying close attention throughout the film allows you to see the many hints and development toward the final conclusion).

With these two captivating acts and divisive ending, the overarching plot of “Red Lights” becomes even better due to the clever use of colored themes throughout the film. The heavy use of black and white plays nicely amidst the “gray” area of psychic powers, and is used in some really interesting ways. Also, there is a recurrent use of the color red, which has its own symbolic meaning here (one I don’t want to delve into to avoid spoilers). I will say that it is smartly used and together with the play on black and white, really enhance the story being told.

Weaver and Murphy work wonderfully together, both continuing their penchants for great performances.

Weaver and Murphy work wonderfully together, both continuing their penchants for great performances.

In addition to the story, the other pieces that make up “Red Lights” are all successful in enhancing the movie as a whole. The performances by Weaver, Murphy, and De Niro are all top notch, something to be assumed given their collectively amazing careers. Each performer plays very nicely off each other, and every interaction feels natural, right down to the monologue delivery. Further, even the small roles have some decent performances. On a side note, Cillian Murphy remains one of my favorite active actors (if you have not seen “Peacock“, do yourself a favor and check out his outstanding  performance as a character with a split personality).

The film also gets high marks for its sound design. Its effects, mixing, and soundtrack all mesh nicely together making each confrontation intense and able to be felt. This complements the cinematography nicely, as the soundtrack matches the changing visuals (including the recurrent black/white theme).

With all of these positives, “Red Lights” manages to have very few downsides. With its shocking ending, the film feels the need to go back and show one of those “here’s everything you just saw, but now everything has a different meaning now that you know the ending” montages. I am not a big fan of these kinds of recaps, as it seems as though the director is trying to dumb the ending down. Those who pay attention to details in films likely put everything together without being shown it. Also, some of the scenes have a feeling of being a little too contrived. Still, these negatives don’t really detract from the overall film.

“Red Lights” is a wonderful film that really took me by surprise. Rodrigo Cortes has created a unique story, and combined with a talented cast, produced a great thriller. At no point does your interest wane, or the film feel drawn out. Those interested in a rational approach to psychic activity should really enjoy this, along with fans of thrillers in general. Overall, this is a sleeper hit waiting to be discovered.

Final Score: 9.0/10

Second Opinion (Jamie):

I must agree whole-heartedly with the above review.  “Red Lights” in a wonderful film with a unique storyline. It only takes the first few minutes of the film to really get you hooked and wanting to denounce the other “psychics” and various other “powers’ these individuals claim to have.

The storyline is very fluid, never too rush or dragged out. The acting is phenomenal as well, by all three main characters of the film. The only negative of the film, if you can call it that, is the likelihood that you will need to watch it twice to really catch all the meaningful scenes and actions that take place throughout the movie. The ending is a wonderful surprise and really makes you think again about what you just watched. At that time you start to connect the black, whites, greys and reds used meaningfully throughout the movie as well as other small details that now have much more meaning.

With that said, I also truly enjoyed “Red Lights” and loved the psychological thriller theme to it and how unique of a film it was. I can’t wait to watch it again and truly capture all the tiny details the director put into making the film the wonderful masterpiece that it is.  

Final: 8.5/10

Watch this film for yourself and let us know if you agree with our reviews in the comments! We’d love to hear your opinions!


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