Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eagle Eye (2008) Review

Eagle Eye
The FBI will arrive in 30 seconds; you must abandon any logic in order to survive

Director D.J. Caruso’s film Disturbia was essentially a modernization of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which at least deems it a remake rather than rip-off. Now Caruso has reunited with his Disturbia star Shia Labeouf for Eagle Eye, which at first glance would seem like a remake of North by Northwest, another Hitchcock classic. It should be engaging, right? I mean Disturbia was at least well made enough to warrant a viewing (I thought it was ok) and Shia proved that he can carry a film and create box office gold. So Eagle Eye, with much bigger ambitions and goals, should have been a good step up. The problem is that it is not a remake, because it also takes ideas from many other (and better) movies, which labels it as a rip-off.

Jerry Shaw is an underachiever who one day hears the news that his brother, Ethan, has been killed in a traffic collision. After attending the funeral, Jerry goes to the ATM machine to find that his previously meager account has now been flooded with cash. When he returns home, his apartment is filled to the brim with high powered weapons, toxic chemicals, and numerous fake passports. Upon witnessing this Jerry receives a phone call from a mysterious voice telling him to leave the premises. Jerry doesn’t listen and is then arrested by FBI agents. The voice eventually helps him escape the FBI which leads him to Rachel Holloman, who is also being instructed by the voice at the risk of losing her son. Jerry and Rachel take off together and try to find out who the voice is, and what it wants them to do.


The initial concept for Eagle Eye provides a lot of room for the kind of suspense and paranoia that the best thrillers are made of. The first half hour or so gets off to a good start, where the movie lays down the fact that the voice can track and control Jerry and Rachel from every possible angle whether it’s cell phones, security cameras, traffic lights, you name it. Where things hit a rough patch is in the first car chase, which signals worse things to come. The hyper editing technique, when used right (Bourne and Quantum of Solace), can create a really visceral experience; but when used wrong, can render potentially well done action into a mess of unreadable shards. Eagle Eye does it wrong, but the actual chase itself is a problem too as it has the feel of a blown out of proportion Michael Bay scene. That’s hardly the material for a taut suspense film. This logic carries over the final tunnel chase, where a jet plane enters the tunnel and then blows up a giant 18 wheeler in a display of overdone pyrotechnics.

But the action isn’t the only part that strains credibility. The big plot twist that occurs at the halfway marker is ludicrous at first glance and even more straining when the motive behind it is revealed later. Gaping plot holes are abound here, one of which almost negates the voice’s entire plan! To be fair, Caruso paces the film like a lightning rod, so if you're not one to think about a film's plot, many of these issues should fly right over your head. The look of the movie is also impressive, with lots of dark noir lighting and a color scheme mostly made of grays and intense blues which enhance the gritty and serious tone of the subject matter.


Labeouf’s usual everyman quality works well here as Jerry and he handles the material capably, always keeping a serious mindset even when faced with the ridiculous circumstances at hand. Michelle Monaghan as Rachel doesn’t really raise the same amount of attachment we have to Labeouf, and the two lack any chemistry together. The supporting cast fares stronger with Billy Bob Thornton giving a rather good show as the determined, but likable, FBI agent following our heroes. Rosario Dawson and Michael Chiklis feel a bit wasted as another government agent and the Secretary of Defense respectively, but each make their impressions in the few scenes they have. And if you listen close enough you may notice that the voice controlling everything is Julianne Moore’s.

I could list all the movies that the films story constantly riffs on, but that would ruin the experience for anyone that might actually enjoy it. I will admit the movie was never boring and it always kept me on my toes wondering what will happen next. But it might have been more satisfying if I had kept wondering, as the answers aren’t that enticing (or even very original). Chalk this one under “potentially engaging film ruined by dunderhead thinking.”

Initial Rating: 2/4    Revised Rating: 1.5/4

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