** (out of four)
Beware, David Copperfield.
That’s because much of “Red Lights” revolves around Dr. Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), a physicist determined to expose any and all supposed psychics and paranormal visions as frauds. He knows when someone discreetly lifts a table to simulate something unexplained. That’s the explanation: You did it, not a ghost.
However, Tom’s boss and fellow skeptic, Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver), refuses to let her colleague investigate blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), who is about to make a highly anticipated, highly paid return after a 30-year absence from demonstrating behavior and possessing knowledge that blow his followers’ collective minds.
Now is a good time to ask yourself if you get more enjoyment out of being fooled or out of uncovering a fraud.
Unfortunately, writer-director Rodrigo Cortes (“Buried”) never allows us to give into the possibility Drs. Buckley and Matheson reject—that perhaps someone could be capable of powers beyond scientific justification. Seemingly everyone in the media and the public in “Red Lights” buys into what Silver’s selling, which probably doesn’t represent how the off-screen universe feels about on-stage psychics/magicians/whatever you want to call them. The film also hinges on a big revelation that you’ll see coming a mile away, and a final twist that strains to pull a fast one when the movie’s few strengths are its somber examinations of curiosity and doubt.
Cortes captures the irresistible mystery of playing amateur detective into the allegedly incredible without the fascination or tension of “The Prestige.” Some people can spot a fake; others prefer to go along for the ride. There’s something disappointing about mental gymnastics that sacrifice an actual perspective for an empty sleight of hand.
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