In a psychological thriller at 30,000 feet, McAdams, who starred in last year's sleeper hit "The Notebook" and co-stars in this summer's "Wedding Crashers," plays a reluctant flier forced to assist in an assassination at the hotel where she works.
"It's not a horror, there's nothing supernatural that happens on the plane. It's more, it's a real actor's piece," McAdams told FOX News.
"I like to think of it as a movie about people under pressure, under intense pressure that increases as the film goes on, and it's a battle of will," co-star Cillian Murphy (search) added.
McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, a Miami hotel manager returning home from her grandmother's funeral on a red-eye flight in stormy weather. After a dalliance in the terminal with a charming hunk (Murphy) whose only flaw seems to be his name — Jackson Rippner — Lisa winds up seated next to him on the plane.
Pleasant surprise turns to unease then terror as Jackson reveals that their meeting is a ploy. He's there to strong-arm her into changing the room of Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who's about to check into Lisa's hotel.
If Lisa refuses, a man waiting outside the home of her dad (Brian Cox) will gut the old man with a nasty knife. If she agrees, Lisa will be party to a major assassination by giving Jackson's accomplices a clear shot at Keefe.
Horror-meister Wes Craven (search) sticks to the formula of his "Scream" flicks here, minus the laughs, says AP movie writer David Germain, who gives the film two stars out of four.
"Craven and company had a chance to add punch and relevancy to 'Red Eye' with a more-thoughtful handling of post-Sept. 11 fears about airline security and domestic terrorism. Yet apart from a few vague references to the rigors of traveling in this new age of anxiety, the movie is a by-the-numbers thriller at 30,000 feet that could have been made two decades ago.
"McAdams ... continues to develop as a solid lead actress, providing a tough, potent presence despite the weak material," he continues.
McAdams admits that taking on a starring role can be nerve-wracking.
"You know there's a little bit of pressure on you when you're the lead and it's on your shoulders a little bit," she told FOX News.
FOX News' Mike Waco and Adam Housley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.