October 4, 2008

Movie Review: Eagle Eye

eagleeye2_largeI have a question. Just when did D.J. Caruso become Michael Bay? This movie is made with enough explosions and general mayhem to make the master proud. Caruso made his big screen debut back in 2002 with the promising film The Salton Sea, following a string of television gigs on series like Dark Angel, Martial Law, and Smallville. Since then Caruso's potential talents were squandered on films like Two for the Money. Then, along came last year's Disturbia and, despite its striking similarity to Rear Window, the movie proved to be quite adept at delivering thrills and it appeared that Caruso could be on the rise again. Now we have Eagle Eye, a fun ride to be sure, a film that purports to warn us against the dangers of technology that just goes through the motions borrowing liberally from other films.

Eagle Eye is a video game-like string of action sequences aligned together in the service of a plot that defines explanation. Watching the film requires a need to distract oneself, because if you don't, you will likely wind up with a splitting headache as you try to rationalize the plot. At the conclusion, you will be left alone, twitching in the theater as the film replays itself over and over, forcing itself into your brain until you finally give up and accept what has been shown. Yes, that may be a little over dramatic, just take it as a warning before you enter the theater.

eagleeye14I distracted myself by trying to come up with the films I was reminded of. Here are the ones I came up with: The Matrix, Nick of Time, Enemy of the State, Terminator, I, Robot, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are probably a few others, but those are the main ones.

All right, let's back it up a little bit.

As the film opens we bear witness to an operation in progress in the Middle East. The target is a suspected terrorist leader who has come out of his hole for the first time in a long time. The problem is that while the military so desperately wants to take him down, the ID system cannot be assured of an absolutely positive identification and therefore cannot recommend a strike. The Joint Chiefs and the President make the call to go forward with the strike. The attack is successful, but results in the activation of two agents stationed in the United States, Jerry Shaw (Shia Labeouf) and Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan).

eagleeye9Both Jerry and Rachel are contacted via cell phone by a woman who gives them very specific instructions to follow. If they do not obey the consequences will be dire. Of course, they have no choice but to obey. They are led on a series of increasingly dangerous tasks, including robbing an armored truck at gunpoint, and an entire host of chases involving cars, planes, and more.

The deeper in that we get, the clearer (well, let's say less foggy) a picture we get. All of the pieces fit together into a loose shape that points at a tale of over-reliance on technology, as well as a need for the human element, all blended with a healthy distrust of government for all of the misjudgments and unethical dealings that go on under the table. Essentially, I am not sure that anyone or anything can ever be 100% trusted.

That sounds all well and good, and the ideas put on display here have been used to much greater effect in other films. When you look closely (not even that closely) you will discover that Eagle Eye exists to merely deliver a visceral experience, a roller coast or a video game, if you will. The plot reveals itself to be rather poorly constructed, as large chunks, including the involvement of both Jerry and Rachel, are not necessary. Sure, the plot makes you think they are important (well, you wouldn't have a movie if it didn't), but the climax comes with a whopper of a reveal that makes everything completely unnecessary. Just for fun, you can even look earlier in the film for the whopper from a different perspective. Just think about what its objective is, what the voice is able to do, and put it together with the supposed need for the activation of Jerry and Rachel.

Bottomline. For what its worth, Eagle Eye does blow stuff up real good, the performances are generally decent, and it does succeed in getting you to feel somewhat involved. In the end, it is just another disappointing action film that will not be remembered for long after you leave the theater.

Mildly Recommended.

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