The re-teaming of Shia LaBeouf and director D.J. Caruso yields “Eagle Eye” – an overcooked, far-fetched, break-neck paced thriller that has plenty of action but little time for anything else. Like an extended episode of “24”, it relies on non-stop chases and multiple twists to compensate for a preposterous storyline, gaping plot holes, and underwritten one-note characters with illogical (at best) motivations.
Avoiding the blatant “Rear Window” lifting that made “Disturbia” into an enjoyably bland and lawsuit enticing remake, this time Caruso along with frustratingly middle-grade scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci try to fuse two of Hitchcock’s other great works – “North by Northwest” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” – with a dash of “2001”. The result is a fun but unsatisfying hybrid, a flashier and dumber “Enemy of the State” ten years on (which in itself was a flashier and dumber take on Coppola’s “The Conversation”).
Of course a lot has changed in the post-9/11 environment with the Patriot Act having traded in most of our civil liberties and rights to privacy. As a result paranoia thrillers about the Government spying on its citizens and using that information to manipulate them have gone from being shockingly predictive to quaintly naive. Yet so long as the premise is handled carefully, and more importantly with a strict sense of realism, it can still work.
A few minutes after the first phone call by the disembodied voice of Julianne Moore to our protagonist slacker Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) and any attempt at real world plausibility goes right out the window. Speed rather than tension is the order of the day here which is why the set pieces come so fast to cover the increasingly silly scenario which is full of ideas but lacks any real focus or structure to hold it all together.
At first it hits the right notes – a US missile attack on a blatant Osama bin Laden-style figure, Jerry finding weapons and explosives in his apartment, and his early failed attempts to get away from the caller make for fun, chilling viewing. But an over-the-top multiple car smash pile-up kicks off increasingly big and implausible scenarios that not only defy logic but even the plain goofy sci-fi reality laws that the film has already laid down.
M:I-3 and “Transformers” scribes Kurtzman and Orci deliver their usual mixed effort on the script which throws in about five minutes of scenes involving a dead twin brother and a single mom’s first night out in ages to work as the film’s sole moments of characterization amidst the running and explosions. A rather gutless ending twist in particular will irk those members of the audience who already haven’t abandoned caring – a hard feat considering the ultimately ridiculous scheme will have you dropping interest with a good half hour to go.
The actors do what they can and deliver perfectly fine work which makes this more tolerable than it deserves to be. Spielberg’s golden boy LaBeouf (looking scruffy but cute) and Billy Bob Thornton as the hardened FBI agent in pursuit come off the best, which is why a sequence late in the film involving a straightforward foot chase between the pair across airport luggage conveyor belts comes off as the best action scene in the film.
Spielberg had wanted to make this film for years but handed the reigns over to Caruso who unfortunately goes for that quick-cut, close-up, choppy camera work that Michael Bay and the ‘Bourne’ films have inflicted on the world. Whereas Bay has epic visuals and the ‘Bourne’ series has a superb economy of storytelling to back things up – Caruso has neither the budget or script to pull off an effort with as much success.
There are serious themes on hand here on how much of our personal information is out there for anyone with the right access to use, but a film like this dare not explore the beyond the superficial in fear of losing its flimsy narrative cohesion. Fun, but dumb, and totally implausible – it’s a modestly enjoyable and unoriginal no-brainer action movie. As a so-called thriller, which it is being marketed as, it’s utter balderdash.