Movie Review: Eagle Eye: The IMAX Experience
By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
"Eagle Eye" is a thriller only the Global Positioning System could love. I suppose if I weren't still using regional positioning systems (they're called "maps") I might be more interested in all the cyber-techno-harum-scarum, and the showy transitional sequences depicting a vast surveillance network as seen from space, and the outermost Google map perspective.
The film's central idea is that our government's mania for Homeland Security-era privacy infringement has gotten so out of hand, everything in an ordinary citizen's life can be digitally surveyed, or overheard, and manipulated, via cell phone, security camera, GPS, ATM, everything. So: When the ice-cold female voice of the Pentagon's super-secret surveillance weapon ARIA (think humorless older sister of "2001: A Space Odyssey's" HAL 9000) wants to get ahold of Shia LaBeouf onboard a Chicago elevated train, ARIA simply calls the cell phone of the sleeping stranger sitting next to him. Or she flashes messages on a passing LED screen. Or, if an Arab-American supporting player needs eliminating, and he happens to be running near power lines, she knocks the hot wires loose like an invisible Transformer and, zap, he's dead. Anything's possible. And when anything's possible, a story's suspense tends to be lessened rather than heightened.
LaBeouf plays Jerry, a clerk at a Kinko's-type copy shop. Early in a perplexingly laid-out narrative his identical twin brother, an Air Force functionary, dies in a mysterious accident. Soon enough Jerry's life goes flooey: Someone delivers a bunch of a terrorist-brand chemicals and weaponry to his little apartment, and packs his bank account with $750,000. The FBI, represented by Billy Bob Thornton (well, it's possible), believes Jerry to be an enemy of the state. He's not, though. Nor is another innocent bystander, played by Michelle Monaghan, whose son is visiting Washington to take part in a concert for the president. The little boy becomes an inadvertent pawn in a sinister assassination plot. "You've been activated" is ARIA's come-on line.
The movie itself is hyperactive and a jumble. "Eagle Eye" was executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, but not so you'd notice. Several of the visual conceits used so beautifully in Spielberg's own "Minority Report," the trappings of a wondrously chilly near-future, recur here but clumsily and without wit. Concocted by four credited writers, the screenplay tries like the devil to get you all fussed up about omnivorous cyber-surveillance on a scale George Orwell never imagined. The results are intensely silly and visually hysterical - not in the funny way, but in the "fit of hysteria" way, with molto destructo car chases cut to an editing rhythm that might make even Michael "Transformers" Bay scream: "Will you slow down a little?"
The director, D.J. Caruso, teamed with LaBeouf on "Disturbia," which certainly was derivative (borrowing liberally from not just "Rear Window," but a bit of "Psycho" and a dash of "Poltergeist") but told its story efficiently and well. "Eagle Eye" works only in flashes - there's a pretty good chase sequence in the bowels of an airport luggage-conveyor system - and only in fragments do you feel the simultaneous buzz and cold chill the filmmakers are after. Politically the film plays it straight down the middle, straining not to offend even though the U.S. secretary of defense, played by a stone-faced Michael Chiklis, intones dire warnings about what happens to a nation when security measures become "threats to liberty itself." For all its digitally effected chaos, the cinematic threat level in "Eagle Eye" never even comes close to orange.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence and for language).
Running time: 1:58.
Starring: Shia LaBeouf (Jerry Shaw); Michelle Monaghan (Rachel Holloman); Rosario Dawson (Zoe Perez); Michael Chiklis (Secretary of Defense); Anthony Mackie (Scott); Billy Bob Thornton (Morgan).
Directed by D.J. Caruso; written by John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz and Dan McDermott; photographed by Dariusz Wolski; edited by Jim Page; music by Brian Tyler; produced by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Patrick Crowley. A DreamWorks Pictures release.