Narrative Review Eagle Eye Directed by: D.J. Caruso Cast: Shia LeBouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy-Bob Thornton Time: 1 hr 58 mins Rating: PG-13
Newly-minted Hollywood bad boy Shia LaBeouf can add another action-packed feather to his cap. This week's high-octane release Eagle Eye may not feature the most original plot, but it secures LaBeouf's place as one of young Hollywood's most promising action tickets.
Following up on recent hits Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as well as last year's Transformers, LaBeouf re-teams with director D.J. Caruso (who also helmed 2007's Disturbia) for a newer, shallower and much more manic retelling of a story we've heard before (and will be hearing again).
LaBeouf plays Jerry Shaw, an average guy who hates his job at the copy shop and is always running short on rent. Soon after his twin brother is killed in a car accident, Jerry returns to his apartment to find it filled with guns and explosives. Before he can react he's arrested, and while in custody he receives a phone call with specific instructions dictating how he's to escape. He follows them, only to find more instructions - on marquees, road signs, from other people's cell phones and car radio units - all urging him toward meeting his new partner-in-crime, the equally clueless Rachel Hollomon (Michelle Monaghan). She's having the same problems as Jerry, only the voice is threatening to hurt her young son if she doesn't cooperate.
Together, the new pair have to navigate a world that adjusts to them. Traffic lights flash green at their approach, machine controlled bulldozers annihilate their obstacles, and the only rules are to follow the signs - no matter what.
What they don't count on is that the cold voice on the line, which seems to be simultaneously saving their lives and ushering them toward a more grandiose fate, may be less human than they thought.
The story "borrows" plot elements from all over the action/sci-fi map, the most recent being 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, and the most obvious being the entire Terminator franchise. Its basic premise, that the world's largest, most omniscient furthest-reaching computer "calculates" the need to decapitate the U.S. government, is full of "ifs, ands or buts" found elsewhere in Hollywood lore, where most are done much more effectively. What Eagle Eye has is a nice, simple story line that never loses touch with what works best about it - that is, the element of surprise.
The concept of a character being told blindly what to do - how fast to drive, which direction, whether to jump out of a building and how to rob an armored car - seems to be an appealing one. It makes for a very promising theatrical trailer, and ultimately a very satisfying action film. Still, it lacks a certain verisimilitude needed to make a story like Eagle Eye ultimately successful. Audiences are smarter than filmmakers give them credit for, and Eagle Eye, with its unlikely character development, non-sensical police/security set-ups and sometimes laughable attempts at showing the targeted power of a centralized supercomputer is, by all accounts, a bit of an insult to the intelligence.
Still, the film has some undeniable pros. The pacing is right on point, the special effects are spectacular (if a little over-the-top at times), and both Monaghan and LaBeouf deliver charming, memorable performances and mix well together. LaBeouf's character, Jerry, isn't much different than the characters he's played of late. He's young, he's a loose canon and he's remarkably persuasive. He's set off against Monaghan, who's life as a single mother is much quieter. Though she and LaBeouf are a charismatic duo, the difference in their age (she's more than a decade older than he) makes their characters' romantic set up slightly off-putting.
Audiences are also paid a visit by Billy Bob Thornton in the form of F.B.I. agent Thomas Morgan, whose job of hunting Jerry after his computer-assisted escape shifts when he, too, learns that the world's biggest computer has just become self-aware.
Though it likely won't stand out in a line-up of some of this year's far-superior action films (Iron Man and Wanted among them), Eagle Eye offers excitement in droves, character quirks aplenty and more than enough thrills for a god Saturday matinee. Final Score - 6/10