Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Shia LaBeouf,
Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Billy Bob
Director: D.J. Caruso
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: December 27, 2008
“We are everywhere.”
I love popcorn action thrillers just as much the next guy. After all, I’ve been a proud endorser of all things directed by Michael Bay (though my opinion of Armageddon has severely decreased over time). But no matter how well made a movie is, even I can get distracted by a plot that illustrates the highest order of ludicrousness.
Such is the case with Eagle Eye, which has all the right ingredients for a modern day Hitchcock-like thriller. With one of the producers being Steven Spielberg, who initially came up with the story idea nearly ten years ago, it’s easy to assume that such an intense thriller could be pulled off successfully. And within the first half hour, I really thought I was in for a tremendous ride of a movie.
However, as the story progresses it just gets more and more ridiculous, leading up to a revelation that ends up making the plot flat out unnecessary. In addition, the movie doesn’t hesitate at ripping off so many better movies. More on that later.
Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a college dropout working a dead end job at a copy paper store while making extra money on the side through poker games. One day Jerry makes two startling discoveries. While at an ATM, he discovers his balance has mysteriously skyrocketed to the range of $750,000. He then goes to his apartment only to find the place stacked with a huge supply of automatic weapons and bomb-making materials.
He then receives a phone call from a mysterious female voice. He is told that if he doesn’t leave his apartment, the FBI will bust in and arrest him. This leaves Jerry confused, but certainly enough the feds bust his door down and take him into custody.
After being interrogated, Jerry gets another phone call from the same mysterious female voice. He is told to duck for cover as a construction crane tears through his holding cell, and then told to escape the building. By now it’s clear that the voice is plotting Jerry’s every move.
And as it turns out, he isn’t the only one getting mysterious phone calls. Across town, paralegal and single mother Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) finds herself being taunted by the same voice. Her phone rings, and she is immediately told that if she doesn’t follow a series of instructions then her son, who’s on a class field trip, will die.
Before long, the orders coming from the female voice bring Jerry and Rachel face to face. The two are then order to follow a convoluted set of instructions. In addition, the mysterious voice is able to control everything from street lights to all kinds of electronic devices, which can be used very lethally should either of them refuse to cooperate.
As difficult as it was to simply explain the setup of the plot, it’s unquestionably a walk in the park compared to explaining the rest of the movie. It doesn’t surprise me that it took four screenwriters to come up with such a messy, plot hole-ridden scenario. I think the writers should consider themselves lucky that their heads didn’t explode as a result of coming up so many ridiculous areas.
What it comes down to, basically, is that Jerry and Rachel are being blackmailed (or as the voice on the phone puts it, activated) into taking part in a political assassination. Don’t worry, I haven’t given away the major twist behind who is really on the other end of the phone. However, I dare any viewer to be surprised by the identity after witnessing everything the voice is capable of.
From a technical standpoint, the movie is extremely well made. Director D.J. Caruso, who also directed Shia LaBeouf in Disturbia, does a decent enough job at setting up the many chase sequences and moments of suspense. But the movie doesn’t even begin to compare to the brilliance of Caruso’s first directorial effort, The Salton Sea.
As for the car chases themselves, they look as if they were ripped right out of a Michael Bay movie. Only here, they’re shot in such a way that makes it hard to tell what is going on. I’m willing to bet that, judging by how these chases were shot and cut, that many cameras and dollies got smashed into.
Many people complained about the nuclear resistant fridge scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which was actually one of my favorite scenes from the movie and I’m not ashamed to admit it), but there’s a moment in Eagle Eye that for me is the real “nuking the fridge” moment of the year. It’s a sequence involving power lines, and that’s all I’m gonna say. I dare you not to laugh yourself silly during this scene.
And as for the movies Eagle Eye rips off, the list includes a long list of ingredients. Take North by Northwest and put in the blender with Enemy of the State, WarGames, I Robot, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard and Stealth and that’s what you get here. Yes, folks, even Stealth was way better than this movie!
Shia LaBeouf has experienced an outstanding rise to stardom over the past year and while his performance here is good, I can’t say that I thoroughly buy him as the action hero the last half hour of the movie forces him to become. For instance, during the race-against-the-clock finale he is cornered by a no-name police officer, which then erupts into a huge fight scene where young Jerry defeats the cop, armed with a nightstick, almost effortlessly. I mean…really?
The supporting cast provides one of the few positive areas in the movie, especially Billy Bob Thornton as the FBI agent hot on Jerry’s trail. Thornton is fantastic with his usual, dead-on sarcastically funny one-liners. Unfortunately they aren’t enough to overcome just about everything else in the movie, and even Thornton’s character is reduced to pathetic antics in the final half.
The bottom line is this; I’m very much an undemanding viewer when it comes to popcorn action fare like Eagle Eye, so when I start to get annoyed by countless plot holes and unending ridiculousness, then you know something can’t be right. I commend the production from a technical aspect, but elsewhere the movie is as mediocre as they come. And that’s unfortunate because the ads for the movie were promising something really exciting!
BONUS: The female voice on the phone belongs to an unseen and uncredited Julianne Moore.
Nothing bad to say about the picture quality of this Dreamworks Blu-ray release. In fact, it’s downright outstanding. It’s quite a visually charged movie and a sharply directed one as well. Thus, the HD format brings forth a most spectacular looking presentation. Various set pieces, particularly one consisting of a gold-yellowish light, look absolutely astonishing. The image detail is consistent and visually tremendous from beginning to end!
Though I’m not a fan of the movie, the sound presentation alone is a good enough reason to buy the Blu-ray. This action thriller carries quite a furious sound, and the TrueHD uncompressed sound mix takes advantage of this to full effect. Once Jerry receives his first phone call, mayhem ensues and the sound presentation doesn’t rest for a second. The action sequences sound tremendously awesome, and the dynamic sound really does help in cranking up the intensity factor, especially during the final twenty minutes.
Some nifty extras are included on this Dreamworks release, all of which have the added bonus of being in HD. We don’t have a commentary track, but we do get Deleted Scenes, an Alternate Ending, multiple behind the scenes featurettes including “Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye”, “Eagle Eye On Location: Washington D.C.”, “Is My Cell Phone Spying On Me?”, “Shall We Play A Game?”, “Road Trip: On Location With The Cast And Crew”, a very funny Gag Reel, a Photo Gallery and a Theatrical Trailer.
Though I can’t say that most people won’t enjoy Eagle Eye, it simply didn’t work for me. Even I have limits as to what is can be accepted when suspending disbelief, and this movie just goes too far on more than one occasion, especially in the final moments. However, the Blu-ray release is worth checking out for the outstanding video and sound quality!