A film review by Craig J. Koban
2008, PG-13, 116 mins.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.