Eagle Eye (United States, 2008)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Eagle Eye Poster

There is no truth to the rumor that free frontal lobotomies will be performed at the entrance to all theaters showing Eagle Eye.

This movie tests the viewing public's tolerance for enduring crass stupidity when the payoff is a series of repetitive, ADD infected chase scenes. Director D.J. Caruso (paired again with his leading man from Disturbia) does a moderately good job of hiding how incredibly dumb this screenplay is by keeping things moving at such a whirlwind pace that a lot more seems to be happening than actually is. In reality, the chase scenes don't mean anything because they don't advance the plot - it's mice on a treadmill, running and running and not getting anywhere. The hope is that the edits will come so fast and furious and the music will be so loud and the actors will display such expressions of near-panic that maybe viewers will mistake all this chaos for suspense.

Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a good-for-nothing layabout: a Stanford drop-out who earns a living by working at a copy store while making a few extra bucks on the side playing cards. One day, he stops by an ATM machine to withdraw some money and discovers that there's $750,000 in his account. He gets home to find his apartment filled floor-to-ceiling with illegal weapons and bomb-making ingredients. He then receives a mysterious call on his cell phone telling him that if he doesn't get out in 30 seconds, he'll be arrested.

Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is a single mother sending her son off on a trip. While he's away, she spends a night out on the town with her girlfriends. A call from her "son" lures her out of a bar onto a street, but the voice on the other end of the phone is the same mysterious caller who warned Jerry. Rachel is informed that unless she completes a series of actions, the train carrying her son will derail and he will be killed. Rachel does as she's told and is brought face-to-face with Jerry. Together, these two go on a convoluted trip to do the bidding of the voice, which has the power to control electronic devices all around the world to get them where they're supposed to go.

Eagle Eye has all the earmarks of a once substantive script that was poked, prodded, cut, and crimped until all semblance of intelligence was wrung out of it. It's still possible to see the cautionary message underlying the movie: something about the danger of Big Brother and the result of giving computers too much control. The former was more than adequately explored by George Orwell. The latter has formed the fulcrum of countless science fiction stories, including Star Trek episodes, 2001, and this year's best animated feature, WALL*E. It feels almost unclean to write a review for something as bad as Eagle Eye and include those fine titles.

The film's central flaw (although by far not its only one) is not difficult to discern. If an entity has the ability to access and control all networked computers and electronic devices around the world, giving it virtually limitless power, why does it need a couple of human beings to do its bidding? And, even if it chooses to use them, why send them on such an unbelievably long and convoluted wild goose chase when the same end could have been accomplished more simply. This issue looms so large that it is impossible to be ignored by anyone who allows a moment's thought to pass through his mind while watching Eagle Eye. The movie was made for the brain dead, the catatonic, and those who have taken allergy medicine and are unable to stay awake.

Some will doubtless praise Caruso's virtuosity with action scenes, but there's a lot of sleight of hand going on there. The action is mediocre, with its rhythm being supplied in the editing room. There's no suspense or tension because the characters are paper-thin and a thinking viewer is at least two or three steps ahead of the screenplay. It's embarrassing when the audience figures out every "twist" before it's explicitly revealed.

It would be nice to see Shia LaBeouf appear in a movie that gives him a chance to act. Lately, all he has been doing is standing around playing a foreground ornament to a bunch of special effects. His work here is indistinguishable from his "performances" in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Transformers. He's playing the same individual: Run, Shia, run! Michelle Monaghan is as unconvincing as she is unappealing in this part (although I like her in general), and the spark that might make things interesting between Rachel and Jerry is missing. Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson are on hand to pick up paychecks. It's easy to forgive Dawson - she has to appear in stuff like this so she can afford to work for next-to-nothing in the many small films in which she has roles. Thornton has simply gotten lazy.

The average positive review of this film will remark that "it's a fun ride if you turn off your brain." I'm not sure why anyone would want to turn off their brain, since that's the organ where the body's pleasure centers are located. Even granting that, when it comes to dumb popcorn movies, Eagle Eye is nowhere near the top. What makes the film even more disappointing is its veneer of social commentary about nonstop surveillance and the omnipotence of computers. These things are red herrings that, like Caruso's frantically edited chase scenes, are designed to camouflage the bankruptcy of the writing. Should this film be a huge box office success, it will stand as a sad testament to how low the bar for cinematic entertainment has been set.

Eagle Eye (United States, 2008)

Run Time: 1:58
U.S. Release Date: 2008-09-26
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1