Release Date:  September 26, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language)
Genre:  Thriller
Run Time:  118 min.
Director:  D.J. Caruso
Actors:  Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Chiklis, Rosario Dawson, William Sadler

Last year, director D.J. Caruso and star Shia LaBeouf had a hit with Disturbia, a reworking of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

The duo have paired up again for Eagle Eye, a techno thriller that tries to meld social critique with popcorn thrills. The result is an unsettled, ultimately unsatisfying mix that gets by on the energy of some breathless action sequences until it resolves the film’s central mystery—the identity of the protagonists’ tormentor. Unfortunately, this two-hour-plus film has a long way to go after that revelation.

LaBeouf stars as Jerry Shaw, a customer service rep at the local Copy Cabana who lives in the shadow of his recently deceased brother. The film also introduces Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), whose family life has strains of its own:  She’s a single mom struggling to do right by her young son.

The two characters are thrown together when they each answer cell phone calls directing them to carry out specific tasks. The mysterious female voice on the other end of the call offers neither Jerry nor Rachel an opt-out:  If they choose to disobey, they face mortal consequences.

The only context hinted at for the dangerous mission is provided in the film’s opening moments, when the U.S. president orders the bombing of a suspected Middle East terrorist despite far less than 100 percent certainty that they’ve targeted the right individual.

Soon a cache of weapons and explosives shows up at Jerry’s apartment, and his meager bank balance surges to $750,000. Before he can process everything that’s happening to him, he’s taken into custody as a suspected terrorist and interrogated by agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton). However, Jerry’s mystery woman has other plans for him. He’s soon in the same car as Rachel and at the mercy of the commands (“turn right NOW”) of his cell-phone companion. The woman controls their phone, the traffic signals and pretty much everything electronic—not to mention the fates of the lead characters.

The early chase scenes are edited in a jarring, hyper manner that may not have any effect on a younger generation of viewers accustomed to such things, but viewers who grew up before the MTV era will be shell-shocked by the frantic visual style of these sequences. Admittedly, these scenes include some spectacular, if pointless, moments of destruction, but if it’s action thrills that viewers want, then Eagle Eye delivers in the early going.

The problems with the film begin with the revelation of the identity behind the mysterious voice tormenting and threatening Jerry and Rachel, and its connection to the belief, voiced by one character, that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil is imminent. To what lengths should we go to prevent such an attack? Might the tactics we employ to ensure the country’s safety do more harm than good?

These questions have been addressed in other recent, better films like The Dark Knight and The Bourne Ultimatum. Eagle Eye, the story which originated several years ago with Steven Spielberg (who serves here as executive producer), feels a bit outdated as it cribs from better contemporary films and echoes much better classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey—a movie that many of Shia LaBeouf’s teenage fans won’t have seen.

The film is to be commended for not forcing Jerry and Rachel into an unearned sexual relationship, but the forced empathy between the characters never comes off as intended. Lame dialogue of the “Hey, you can’t just walk away. … I need you” variety keeps any genuine emotion at bay. The pat resolution of Jerry’s troubled family life in the film’s closing moments is no more convincing, but by that time the film’s energy has dissipated so much that the perfunctory conclusion comes as a relief.

Although Eagle Eye could be sharper, it’s no travesty. LaBeouf, who’s coming off two blockbusters (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Transformers), is in no danger of seeing his fan base contract because of this performance, and Monaghan shows some action-movie savvy. However, viewers who desire to see a more original story would be advised to miss this flick.


Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@earthlink.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Lord’s name taken in vain; foul language.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Scenes of drinking.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Male friends discuss one man’s sexual prospects; a woman’s back and bra strap can be seen for a moment before she puts on a sweater.
  • Violence:  A missile destroys a village gathering; multiple images of guns and ammo; verbal threats involve the murder of a young child; out-of-control car chases and extensive vehicular destruction; electrocution by downed power lines; charred body parts of a corpse are shown; a gun is pointed in the face of a character who then asks to be shot; multiple shootings.