Eagle Eye

DreamWorks SKG
D.J. Caruso / USA 2008

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in an entertaining film purely because it is an entertaining film. What is the point of a healthy, nourishing dinner if there isn’t any desert at the end? Eagle Eye is a popcorn movie in the very best sense of the word. Don’t go looking for deep commentary. Don’t go expecting an even halfway plausible story. And definitely don’t go if you’re the type of person driven to distraction by gargantuan plot holes and contrived twists of fate. But if you’re looking for a fun film that quickens the pulse and gets the blood racing, Eagle Eye is for you.

Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is going nowhere in life. It’s not that he’s lazy, but merely unfocused. He’s nothing like his ambitious identical twin brother, an Air Force officer whose recent accidental death reminds Jerry that he was not his parents’ favorite son. Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is a harried single mom suffering from separation anxiety. Her 8-year-old son, Sam, is on his way to Washington, D.C., to play before the president with his school band.

Here’s where things begin to get strange. Jerry’s maxed-out bank account suddenly registers $750,000, and he comes home one day to discover his sparsely furnished apartment crammed top to bottom with high-end military equipment. It isn’t long before the FBI gets wind of it and bumps Jerry to the top of its terrorist threat list. Jerry’s only clue as to what’s going on is an anonymous phone call from a mysterious woman. Rachel too receives a call from the same woman, implying that if they do not follow her instructions to the letter, they and their families will be killed.

Thrust together, the two ordinary strangers are suspicious of each other at first, but soon realize they are being manipulated by forces beyond their control or reckoning, a force with the omnipresence to know every intimate detail of their lives and the omniscience to exercise seemingly limitless control over their universe. The disembodied voice forces Jerry and Rachel into a series of ever-escalating dangerous situations. To survive, they must work together to uncover what is really happening, and more importantly, why.

It’s fitting that director D.J. Caruso’s last film with the extremely likable Shia LaBeouf was Disturbia, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In Eagle Eye, LaBeouf is once again a Hitchcockian archetype — the innocent man wrongly accused, as seen in The 39 Steps or North by Northwest.

Producer Steven Spielberg came up with the idea for Eagle Eye nearly a decade ago. However, waiting to make the film until now was probably for the best. Eagle Eye wouldn’t have been believable a decade ago. It barely is now. Eagle Eye takes place in a world of total automation. The film examines our ubiquitous reliance on technology, exploiting our post-9/11 paranoia with Big Brother intrusion. What happens when computers start replacing human beings? Are computers capable of making moral judgments? What if those judgments are at odds with humanity’s livelihood? Borrowing elements from everything from 2001 to The Terminator and The Matrix, this War Games for the 21st century shows that when everything is controlled by computers, everything — and everyone — can be controlled.

For all the film’s ridiculously advanced technology, it feels slightly old fashioned, like the sort of ‘80s actioneers they just don’t make anymore. Sure the film is utterly improbable. But Eagle Eye is so brazen and confident in its outlandishness that we can’t help but buy it too. Just don’t expend too many brain cells on the finer details of the plot. Although the narrative drive could be resolved in a moment with the most basic of linier solutions, we and the screenwriter don’t want it to end the easy way. The elaborate ruse is half the outlandish fun.

Everything about Eagle Eye plunges us into the action. Although the action sequences are muddled and disorientating, we feel as if we are in the midst of the carnage, rather than watching it safely from afar. From explosive multiple car pile ups to breathless finales to about-time kisses, Eagle Eye is programmed to fulfill your every wish in spectacular fashion.

The film moves like a bullet train without breaks. And it’s one heck of a ride.

© 2008 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.

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