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Sundance 2012: Red Lights

February 2, 2012


Keeping It Reel is happy to have our Utah correspondent, Catina Martinez (see below), return with her coverage of the Sundance Film Festival….


written by: Rodrigo Cortés
produced by: Rodrigo Cortés, Steve Chasman & Adrian Guera
directed by: Rodrigo Cortés
rating: none
runtime: 119 min.
U. S. release date: January 20, 2012
The second film in my Sundance lineup was “Red Lights” was written and directed by Spain’s Rodrigo Cortés (2010″s “Buried”) . Our little Ogden venue is not quite flashy enough for the Hollywood scene, but we do often get the pleasure of having a film introduced by the director, as was the case with this thriller. The very charming Cortes advised audience to watch the film with an open mind – and resist the temptation to make any judgements or decisions until the closing credits. Cortes stayed for a  Q&A session following the screening of his film, and was charming, warm and adorable – which may have also colored my review of this film.

“Red Lights” stars Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver, some pretty big names for an indie. Weaver stars as a Professor of Psychology, whose lessons and research are focused on debunking claims of paranormal activity. Cillian Murphy plays her assistant, in a uncharacteristically non-creepy role.  It was a nice change of pace to see Murphy take on a role that didn’t make me shiver with ookiness. Up-and-comer Elizabeth Olsen plays Weaver’s student and Murphy’s love interest.

The first half of the film is focused on house calls made by Dr. Matheson (Weaver) and Dr. Buckley (Murphy)…with some tense and surprising moments, where I found myself jumping out of my seat.  Yay!  In each scenario, they break the alleged paranormal activity apart, finding the deception, building a foundation of doubt in our minds, and making us consider where our own beliefs lie. 


Enter Simon Silver. A world-renowned psychic, Silver (DeNiro)  has been absent from the public eye for 20 years, after a critic mysteriously died of heart failure. Many believe that Silver caused the man’s death, using his alleged psychic abilities. He is the one public figure that Dr. Matheson has not investigated, nor does she intend to – for reasons that are revealed later in the film. Dr. Buckley though, Dr. Matheson’s loyal assistant, is less ambivalent about investigating Silver.  When he does go against Matheson’s wishes, someone winds up dead, resulting in violent paranormal phenomena  plaguing Dr. Buckley.

De Niro’s role is to make us doubt what we learned in the first half of the film, that all paranormal phenomena can be proven as deception. He makes us wonder if there is in fact magic, while also making us suspect that he is perhaps just a truly talented charlatan. Silver and Dr. Buckley engage in a deadly battle of debunking versus proving psychic ability through a series of violent phenomena aimed at hurting, possibly killing Dr. Buckley. 

The movie ends with a delicious twist that is an unexpected, but perfunctory end to “Red Lights”.  I enjoyed watching how the director crafted such excellently balanced research into theories and events that vindicate both believers and non-believers. Murphy does a fabulous job playing the skeptic, and DeNiro does his usual stellar job at playing DeNiro. The film very much appealed to me, as I like to express my belief in the paranormal in this way: I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’d sure hate to be confronted by one!

Catina Martinez  is a reader and a writer – living, loving and playing in the
Wasatch Mountain Range.  Her film enthusiasm peaks once a year, with
Sundance, which she enjoys attending at The Egyptian Theater in her
hometown of Ogden.  She lives with her wonderful children, a dog, a
cat and works full-time in marketing.




2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 9:16 am

    Ok, I’m sold. The first thing I thought when I saw the cast list was ‘Oh no, not Cillian Murphy doing his creeping out thang..’ and there you go, he isn’t. I’ll look out for it.


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