"Eagle Eye" is dressed up to look like a cautionary tale about our not always virtuous government, but it is more accurately a cautionary tale about how a movie's initially intriguing premise can spin so ridiculously out of control. Director D.J. Caruso, who hit big in 2007 with the sleeper suspenser "Disturbia
," has found his luck finally running out, and not even his solid continued working relationship with lead actor Shia LaBeouf can help the dire affairs that screenwriters John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz and Dan McDermott have scribbled for him.
Set in the very near future of January 2009, "Eagle Eye" imagines a world where virtually any conversation on the face of the earth can be listened to by the government, and where every electrical device can be controlled by a God-like master computer system. This is particularly unfortunate for 24-year-old Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), a downtrodden clerk at Copy Cabana who has no sooner buried his twin brother Ethan when he discovers over $750,000 in his bank account and a cache of explosives and weapons planted in his apartment. Framed as a terrorist and taken in for questioning by FBI Special Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) and Air Force investigator Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson), Jerry soon receives a cell phone call from a mysterious female voice who orchestrates his escape. Now on the run, Jerry has no choice but to comply with her demands. His voyage ultimately crosses paths with that of young single mother Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), who is also being controlled by the elusive caller, her nine-year-old son Sam's (Cameron Boyce) very life at risk if she fails to go through with the increasingly dangerous tasks given to them.
Under the assumption that the film is leading somewhere special or unanticipated, one is willing to allow his or her suspension of disbelief run wild for the first hour of "Eagle Eye." The more that is unveiled concerning the particulars of the plot, however, the more it loses its way. Long before the stale climax arrives, the picture has become both dull and unbelievably absurd. If it weren't for the recent Robert De Niro-Al Pacino misfire "Righteous Kill
," this would be the absolute silliest thriller of the year. The mind reels at the very thought of what occurs in this picture, and reels even more at the notion that audiences are expected to take seriously and buy into the cow slop served up to them.
Holes in the script run rampant, the hows and whys of the story's developments shady at best and utterly confounding at worst. Most pressingly, the viewer naturally has to wonder why Jerry and Rachel are needed at all when the mastermind behind their ordeal has the power to control everything, from cars and trains to electrical lines to junkyard forklifts, at a moment's whim. If this weren't enough, the action set-pieces are overlong, overblown and frequently incomprehensible. Taking a page from the Michael Bay handbook that states no shot should be longer than a quarter of a second and no chaotic image should be captured at any distance other than in extreme close-up, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (2007's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
") and editor Jim Page (2006's "Firewall
") carry out their duties while suffering from what would seem to be epileptic seizures. The possible grandeur of an airplane flying through a tunnel over a stream of cars, for example, is botched by not properly shooting the action so much as shaking the camera this way and that. By the time Jerry and Rachel are riding around on airport conveyer belts while Agent Morgan, in hot pursuit, stumbles over luggage behind them, the film has lost all semblance of sanity and focus.
Amidst the lunacy, Shia LaBeouf (2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
") and Michelle Monaghan (2008's "Made of Honor
") somehow manage to maintain their dignity. As Jerry, LaBeouf is heartbreaking in early scenes where he must face the death of his other halfhis twin brother; these moments are so effective that they belong in a better movie. As Rachel, Monaghan similarly finds a certain amount of pathos in her character even if she is a flimsy pawn in the grand scheme of things. They fare much better than Billy Bob Thornton (2007's "Mr. Woodcock
") and Rosario Dawson (2007's "Grindhouse
"), who are stuck in nothing parts as straight-faced authority figures. What could have possibly drawn them to this unfulfilling material?
"Eagle Eye" egregiously piles on the senselessness as it reaches a third act set in Washington, D.C., that is the epitome of dissatisfying. Coincidences and contrivances sure-footedly continue right up to the ending, destined to leave viewers either scratching their heads or visibly angry for having wasted their time on something so idiotic. Underneath it all, "Eagle Eye" might have something to say about current governmental affairs. Or maybe it doesn't. Whatever the case may be, all purpose and entertainment value is misplaced by bad ideas, a worse script, and shoddy filmmaking excesses.