Red lights can be frustrating on the road. One may see a green light up ahead and accelerate–but then the light changes and one is stuck wondering why did the red light have to happen at that moment. However, while the movie “Red Lights” also makes viewers feel like they have reached sudden light changes, viewers eventually understand and appreciate director Rodrigo Cortés’ reasoning behind each event. “Red Lights” focuses on paranormal researchers Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), who go through their lives debunking whatever supernatural occurrences come their way. Driven by the need to disprove these psychic phenomenon to give himself rational explanations in life, Tom makes it his goal to disprove the legendary psychic, Simon Silver (Robert De Niro). However, while investigating Silver, Tom is forced to examine himself and his own beliefs. The movie from that point to the end is strong; the rise and fall of emotion and the eerie, psychologically thrilling scenes make viewers excited for the big, happy everything-finally-comes-together moment in the end. But in the movie’s final minutes, viewers hit a roadblock. The flow of the entire movie goes in a completely unexpected direction that makes one wonder, “Why did this, out of all things, happen?” But being the psychological-based film it is, the ending fits with the whole point of the movie: Cortés doesn’t want viewers to have that satisfying conclusion. Cortés wants them to think about the entire 113 minutes, refocus your attention and realize the overarching message of the entire movie.
The movie starts off making sense. Matheson and Buckley investigate paranormal activity, successfully revealing the supernatural as just tricks that are aided by what people’s perspectives expect. Talking spirits, floating tables and faith healers are among the targets of this fallacy-busting duo as they try to rid the world of magical frauds. But while the movie goes on seeming like a hipster-paranormal version of MythBusters, the intensity rises as renowned psychic Simon Silver comes into the scene. Silver, who is a blind psychic, can somehow (guess what) do non-blind tasks. Yet, while the general public in this movie somehow still believes Silver’s paranormal powers throughout the ENTIRE movie, Buckley decides to remove the (somehow unknown) cover from Silver’s act on his own.
The psychological thrill kicks in when Buckley goes on pursuit to find the truth despite Matheson’s warnings. Dead birds flying into windows, hallucinations and out-of-body experiences propel the movie to its ending point where viewers are ready to be served the great realization–the great realization that comes after all of Buckley’s weird experiences, the great realization that shines light into Buckley’s personality and something about humanityl after his emotional and personality swings from a calm theorist to a frantic and distressed seeker of the truth. The Great Realization, it turns out, comes as one big Great Question for the audience that goes along the lines of “What the heck just happened?”, with little bitterness towards Cortés for putting together such an out-of-place ending in a sloppy and hasty manner.
But it’s almost as if “Inception” and “Black Swan” had a child named “Red Lights,” and Cortés was the legal guardian who raised and directed it. The rising psychological thrills of the movie cause viewers to expect an ending that aligns with everything that happened earlier. But as with the spinning top in “Inception”, viewers are left with unsettled thoughts at first. Once the whole point of the movie and the development of ideas as a whole sink in, the purpose of the “crap conclusion” makes sense, and the “red light” ending seems worthwhile after all.