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Eagle Eye /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thorton, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Azizi

Directed by: D.J. Caruso

Produced by: Roberto Orsi, Alex Kurtzman, Patrick Crowley
Written by: Daniel McDermott (screenplay & story), Travis Adam Wright, John Glenn, Hillary Seitz (screenplay)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

     As this summer’s epic triumph, The Dark Knight, slowly leaves theatres this fall, it’s comforting to know that another intelligently-crafted action blockbuster will be taking its place. While I don’t mean to equate the sheer fun of Eagle Eye with the emotionally-jarring mastery of the unforgettable film it will steal screens from, it is no doubt a deserving film unto its own. The two share a single refreshing characteristic that allows me to believe in the idea that Hollywood isn’t done making significant motion-pictures: they are works of cinema that manage to be smart and artistic despite the fact that their main purpose is to be fit for mass-consumption.


     Much of the Eagle Eye’s punch rests in the fact that studio DreamWorks (err… Paramount?) has managed to keep what the movie is actually about under wraps. In order to ensure a maximized number of “virgin” movie-going experiences, I’m not going to say anything more about the plot than the film’s trailer does. The story follows protagonist Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), an aimless young man who has dropped out of Stanford and distanced himself from his family. Jerry works a dead-end job at a copy joint and can’t even manage to make his rent.


      Jerry’s life suddenly becomes a bit more eventful (and dangerous), however, when his twin brother, a military man, dies. Soon after the funeral, Jerry unknowingly finds his checking account full of money and his apartment stocked with hazardous chemicals. Minutes before he’s arrested for possessing the chemicals—apparently the police were notified of them before he was—Jerry is called by a mysterious woman instructing him on how to flee the scene. He doesn’t obey her at first, but has no choice but to follow her advice when thrust into a sticky situation when in police custody. The unidentified caller has a laundry list of things Jerry must do if he doesn’t want to be killed. To better complete these, he is soon teamed up with another victim, Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), whose son is effectively being held hostage by the all-knowing (and all-powerful, we learn, as she shows off her ability to control city stoplights and construction equipment) caller. Being a smart guy, Jerry gets progressively closer to discovering why he’s carrying out risky and illegal tasks, and all explanations seem to point to something high up in the government. Perhaps his brother’s death wasn’t so random after all.


     I can’t speak in detail about the movie’s themes regarding the terrifying power of technology when it is employed by bureaucratic governments without giving too much away. But I will say that Eagle Eye, despite its very mainstream popcorn-movie presence, made me think during its exploration of said themes. Yes, the film overreaches at times and makes questionable references to the Patriot Act in passing, but on the whole I admired the its ability to reach for ideas more substantive than those that the standard sci-fi auctioneer of its sort usually does. Eagle Eye plays a lot like 2001-lite, and I mean that in a good way.


     The movie will also play well to viewers who aren’t particularly in the mood to think. While it offers more than mere action, Eagle Eye nonetheless boasts chase-sequences that are exceptionally well constructed. These are especially entertaining because they feature not two, but three parties involved in chases: Jerry and Rachel are most immediately running from police, but they’re also running from whoever (or whatever) is giving the police a reason to run after them. This dynamic proves consistently clever and—pardon the cliché—keeps the viewer guessing.


     While the special effects in Eagle Eye are every bit as eye-popping as one would expect from a mega-budgeted picture, the success of the aforementioned action scenes is largely due in part to the work of two men. The first is director D.J. Caruso, who finally comes into his own after making two big pictures (Taking Lives and Disturbia) that showed undeniable promise but didn’t quite work. Sure, Caruso lets Eagle Eye go on for about fifteen minutes too long—it clocks in just past the two-hour mark—but his feel for pacing and tension-development is mostly spot-on. And he’s aided by the picture’s other invaluable asset: Shia LaBeouf, who is able to deliver an involving and sympathetic lead performance despite his destructive party-boy status in Hollywood. (For the record, Michelle Monaghan is also good in her role, but she’s given comparatively little to do and often comes off as obligatory eye-candy.)


      Alfred Hitchcock famously said: “a good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.” I tend to agree, even if Hitchock’s criterion is far tougher to meet today than it was in his time because renting a movie and watching it on a giant plasma TV is now an easy thing to do. But Eagle Eye meets Hitch’s requirements; big and impressive and immersive, the picture merits a night out for nearly any mainstream filmgoer. It may not be as grand a blockbuster as the one we all saw this summer was—after all, what is?—but it’s certainly worth seeing.


-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 9.21.2008

Screened on: 9.12.2008 at the AMC Century City 15 in Century City, CA.


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