A film review by Craig J. Koban


2008, PG-13, 116 mins.

Jerry Shaw: Shia LaBeouf / Rachel: Michelle Monaghan / Zoe: Rosario Dawson / Callister: Michael Chilkis / Morgan: Billy Bob Thornton / Maj. Bowman: Anthony Mackie / Grant: Ethan Embry

Directed by D.J. Caruso / Written by Dan McDermott, John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright and Hillary Seitz.

I hate it when lay filmgoers lazily use descriptors like “dumb” and stupid” when describing a movie.  I find it kind of intellectually lazy, not to mention that it represents people at their most inarticulate.  However, after sitting through every single solitaire moment of the galactically implausible and inordinately preposterous EAGLE EYE, I truly find it very difficult to label the film as anything but: This is a very, very “stupid” and “dumb" film.  

The terms absent minded or stretching incredulity to the max does this film no justice at all.  Even worse, EAGLE EYE tries to be a moral parable about how the current US administration is in danger of misusing its increasingly powerful technology to curtail the threat of global terrorism.  Yet, this film never occupies even a remote plain of existence with any known fabric of logic and reality in the world that I populate.  EAGLE EYE is cheaply advertised as a thriller, but it’s pure science fiction, with an extremely hefty emphasis on “fiction”.  It's as timely and relevant as a 1950’s B-grade flying saucer flick.

Now, before any reader out there accuses me of lacking an open mind, I will staunchly come to my defense by saying that I have, and always will be, an obsessively liberal minded filmgoer: I am willing to go with just about any premise or subject matter as long as I can moderately buy into it.  I like to suspend my disbelief.  I really do.  It oftentimes makes the movies that much more transcending and ethereal as an experience.  Nonetheless, EAGLE EYE contains non-stop, head-shaking moments of complete and utter disbelieving inanity that it would take a man of Herculean strength to suspend my disbelief.  One of my friends called it the ultimate “You Got To Be Kidding’” movies, which is the broadest of understatements.  This film contains heaps of impossibilities that could not have been contained in the last two NATIONAL TREASURE films. 

Presented as a political thriller, EAGLE EYE is nevertheless completely intellectually stunted in its commentary on politics, other than to say that the Patriot Act and other post-911 breaches of privacy are "bad."  Also, the film is meant to be a sobering, Orwellian wakeup call to the limitless dangers of abusing computer technology, telling us that political leaders should watch out as to not put too much faith in it (didn’t 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THE TERMINATOR and MATRIX films teach us nothing?).  Alas, EAGLE EYE is so terminally silly that you stare at the screen in laughing ridicule most of the time, not in a state of tense, theatre armrest clutching dread.  The ultimate kiss of death for this film’s overall effectiveness occurs when its feeble attempts at socio-political commentary gets totally lost by how shallowly bereft it is in terms of authenticity. 

Even sadder is the fact that very good actors that I have come to admire are allowed to trudge through this dreck.  I know – in my heart of hearts – that these performers are smart and intelligent people, so what – other than a mighty payday – convinced them to appear in EAGLE EYE?  The story sure is a whopper of all head scratching whoppers.  Shia LaBeouf plays Jerry Shaw, a recent Stanford dropout that works at a go-nowhere photocopy store where he pads his income by playing poker in the lunch room on his breaks.  He’s semi-estranged from his family, a loner, and has no one really in his life.  Just when he thinks he has hit rock bottom, some very peculiar things become to happen to him.  And I mean head shakingly peculiar.

For starters, he stops one day at a local ATM to take out a merge amount of money and miraculously sees that he has three quarters of a million dollars in his account.  Even more bizarre is the state of his apartment when he gets home, which is filled with illegal weapons and every type of bomb making device.  Then, to make him even more shocked, he receives an odd cell phone call from an unidentified woman that tells him that the FBI will arrive to arrest him on grounds of suspected terrorist activity if he does not leave…in 30 seconds.  Why 30 seconds?  Well...uh...don't ask.

At the same we meet Rachel Holloman (the usually wonderful and spirited Michelle Monaghan), a single mom that is in the process of sending off her young son to Washington as part of a school band field trip to play for the President himself on Capital Hill.  Soon after her son leaves she too receives a mysterious phone call from the same woman that called Jerry.  She is further warned that, unless she willingly partakes in a series of dangerous tasks, her son will be killed.  Obviously, Rachel does what she is told and she is inevitably brought together with the equally flabbergasted Jerry…and from here the film takes a speedy nosedive into bone-headedly asinine waters and never resurfaces.  Very few films that I have seen are so thoroughly drowned by their own weighty unrealism as much as this one.

Throughout most of the film, Jerry and Rachel engage on a convoluted series of enormously complicated tasks by the “woman” on the phone (let's call her Aria), all while being entirely dazed by how she is one step ahead of them at every single waking minute.  And I do mean that:  Aria is able to make anything happen and control seemingly every single electronic device within an earshot of the two main characters (cell phones, GPS, ATMs, security cameras, scoreboards…everything).  The scope of her powers is omnipotent: she can control traffic lights, disable power lines, crash F-16 fighter jets, and – in one of the film’s most shameless product placements – can even take over the plasma TVs at Circuit City.  I mean…Aria seems to be everywhere that Jerry and Rachel are at anytime, despite that she’s never readily visible at any time in the film.  Well...sort of. 

Part of the problem with EAGLE EYE is that it’s would-be shocking twist as to the real identity of the enigmatic woman on the cell phone is so readily foreseeable: anyone in the audience with half of a brain should be able to decipher the true nature of the and guise of Aria from a mile away, but since Jerry and Rachel occupy in strict accordance with the "Idiot Plot Syndrome" (which holds that "Any plot containing problems could be solved instantly if all the characters were not idiots"),  they seem completely mystified as to what force is guiding them on their dangerous treks.  After the first few phone calls to Jerry, it becomes abundantly obvious that no "normal" human being could be able to possibly control his actions every second…which precludes me to speculate why Jerry could not see the obvious. 

Too many scenes in this movie are an assault on even reasonable intelligence.  It’s giggle inducing to see Jerry and Rachel – even with the invincible powers of Aria helping them – are able to escape death at every turn.  A sequence in a junk yard involving automated cranes and forklifts coming to life to assist the two protagonists from eluding capture by the police is howlingly funny, not to mention a later scene where the two are able to hold up an armored car rather easily and then later sneak on board a military airplane after they had successfully fooled airport security (a trick involving the airport security’s x-ray cameras is a hoot).  And…don’t get me started on a late breaking sequence involving the pair trying to infiltrate Capital Hill while attempting to save Rachel’s son, the President and all of his staff.  Then there are also two special crystals secretly smuggled into a piece of jewellery and in Rachel’s son’s trumpet that will spell doom for all involved, and a dead twin brother of Jerry’s that remerges…sort of.  

Perhaps even more shockingly impractical is the whole motive of Aria herself.  Her rationale is that the current US administration is doing more harm than good to its citizens in its fight against terror, so she decides that eliminating the entire executive body is required, in hopes of curbing terrorist activities against US civilians.  Actually, she plans to kill everyone but the secretary of defense so that she can place him in office as the Commander and Chief.  I don’t get it.  Why would a villain of unlimited intelligence and foresight see that the only logical recourse to fighting terror and promoting harmony would be in the killing of the President and the immediate leaders under him?  Don’t terrorists hate the idea of American itself and what it represents, regardless of who’s in power?  I understand this simple notion, but why doesn't the all-knowing, all wise, and ostensibly fail-safe villain?  Furthermore, if Aria wanted to simply eliminate the President and had control of everything electronic, why not just crash Air Force One instead of stupidly engaging Jerry and Rachel on an endless series of complicated tasks whose outcomes would make killing the President even more difficult?  Or…wait a minute…I think Jerry’s twin brother also figures in on this plot…and if you’ve gone crossed eyed, you are not alone.

Steven Spielberg is listed as Executive Producer here for EAGLE EYE, and I’ve read that co-screenwriter Dan McDermott actually wrote the film's script based on an idea by Spielberg (and by "idea" he must have meant that Spielberg scribbled something drunkenly on a cocktail napkin one night).  Originally conceived over ten years ago, director D.J. Caruso also recently admitted that EAGLE EYE’s overall story made more sense when its “technology finally caught up to the storytelling.”  Technology has certainly caught up to the storytelling…and has apparently overcome all forms of intelligence and reality-based common sense in storytelling as well. 

Yup.  This is a stupid and dumb film.  EAGLE EYE wants to be ENEMY OF THE STATE (EYE'S movie poster even blatantly rips off STATE's) mixed in judiciously with 2001 and sprinkled with THE FUGITIVE on top for good measure, but the film never recovers any semblance of veracity with its plot after the 15-minute mark.  LaBeouf and Monaghan are good actors, and their sense of growing paranoia and tension is palpable, even when the story they’re involved in is anything but (to be fair, they do a superb job of looking scared, screaming a lot, and appearing completed dazed and bewildered).   Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson are also respectable, both playing respective government agents and both showing how much better they are then this material (although one last minute decision on Thornton's part to assist LaBeouf's character three quarters of the way through the film is schizophrenically insane).   The film was directed by Caruso, who helmed last year’s effective Hitchcockian riff, DISTURBIA, also starring LaBeouf.  His direction, at times, is borderline catatonic: many of the chase sequences are shot in such a dizzying array of multi-second edits and seizure-like camera motions that all semblance of cadence and flow to the scenes, not to mention clarity, is often gone.  Note to aspiring directors: keep it clean, simple, and clear; not everything needs to look like a hyperactive music video that elicits migraines.  If EAGLE EYE’s disdain for logic wasn’t bad enough, sitting through Caruso’s headache inducing handling of the action makes the film all the more abortive. 

Oh…and head shakingly ridiculous.  Trust me: yours will shake considerably through EAGLE EYE.

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