Directed by D.J. Caruso
Director D. J. Caruso and Shia LaBeouf really knocked the ball out of the park with last year’s “Disturbia” and as many complaints as there were about it being derivative of a certain Hitchcock classic, one could easily say the same about this political thriller which tries to be “edgy” by creating a plot involving the assassination of the President, something we’ve never EVER seen before in a movie. Dripping sarcasm aside, there definitely seems to be a bit too much formula filmmaking at work here despite the clever idea of normal people being turned into sleeper agents by some unseen organization with unknown motives and absolute control over everything electronic.
Even so, “Eagle Eye” is by no means the cutting edge modern-day political action-thriller it makes itself out to be. Much of the film revolves around the idea that there’s a person or organization that can see you anywhere and can control every situation to its advantage. This entity is first represented by a disembodied female voice on Jerry Shaw’s celphone, but we soon learn that she can access every single phone and even L.E.D. signs remotely to help Jerry and his fugitive partner Rachel as they’re being chased by the F.B.I. in the form of Billy Bob Thornton, suspected of being terrorists. In fact, Jerry and Rachel are being used by this controlling force to do its bidding, which involves quite nefarious plots indeed.
Sometimes storytelling-by-numbers can keep you entertained for 90 minutes when done right but the premise of some entity being able to see you anywhere and either help or hurt you depending on whether you’re working with it or against it can only go so far. While it does try hard to constantly hit the viewer over the head with the concept of there being cameras everywhere and other ways the government (because that’s what this is really about) to keep tabs on you, there aren’t too many shocks or surprises along the way. The one major twist takes place roughly halfway through the movie, and that twist will probably be the deciding factor on whether you’re still on board after that. Some people might be suitably impressed with this idea, but others will feel like it’s something they’ve seen too many times before, and if that’s the case, the movie has lost you and it’ll be impossible to enjoy the rest of it. It’s not exactly the most original idea even when used in this context either. Otherwise, there’s just so much of the movie that feels familiar whether it’s little things like Jerry going to the ATM and finding his bank account swelling (we saw that in “Wanted”) to the van driving through the desert towards the two protagonists, which make you wonder if it’s bringing Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box.
It also feels that Caruso is trying too hard to recreate the magic of “Disturbia”, even opening with the death of someone close to Jerry so he can put Shia’s dramatic chops on a pedestal, though here it seems forced. In fact, even with all sorts of amazing talent involved, it’s hard not to feel like some of it’s being squandered, especially LaBeouf and Monaghan, who have proven they can be very entertaining when given the right material. The movie takes itself far too seriously, which one might expect considering that it deals with terrorism and the government’s ability to keep tabs on its citizens, but “Eagle Eye” sorely needs something to lighten it up. What’s ironic is that the movie is reminiscent of the technological action angle of “Live Free or Die Hard”, but what kept that action movie entertaining was Bruce Willis keeping even the most tense situations light, something that “Eagle Eye” sorely needs.
Far too often, it feels like the two actors are mismatched, which may have been partially intentional, but to spend an entire movie watching two people that seem incompatible doesn’t help sell the movie. While LaBeouf’s character isn’t too far removed from Sam in “Transformers”, he does seem to be deliberately playing Jerry older despite us seeing him play poker with college-age buddies as the movie opens. It’s hard not to flinch just a little bit when things seem to be leading to some sort of romance between the two of them, because he still doesn’t look that much older than her son.
A big problem with watching this movie in the “IMAX Experience” (which is how I watched it) is that it really wasn’t filmed for IMAX. Caruso films everything in an ultra-close-up way with shaky handheld cameras and bleached-out colors, similar to some of his past work, but when blown up onto an extra-large screen, it makes the film seem far too claustrophobic, which isn’t good for a movie that’s trying to feel big. Most of the more impressive set pieces really do feel like they were done on a set, and they’re shot and edited in a way that doesn’t necessarily translate well when thrust into the viewer’s face.