The horrors of living in a surveillance society have been predicted and estimated for decades, and now that we’re actually in one I suppose we can take a step back and look at things objectively. Eagle Eye attempts to exploit the fact that the technology exists to track any human being at any time (you think that GPS in your iPhone is just for you?), but with nary an original or even provoking thought throughout, it only emerges as the silliest film of the year. Arriving at least a half decade too late (it’s a blatant rip-off of 1998’s Enemy of the State, among other Big Brother-gone-wrong yarns); it’s truly shocking that Steven Spielberg attached his name to this.
Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) doesn’t have much going for him. He works the day shift at the Copy Cabana and is constantly in the shadow of his twin brother, a soldier. Upon Jerry’s brother’s expected death, his life spins out of control as $750,000 magically appears in his bank account and a cache of weaponry is found in his apartment. Framed as a terrorist, Jerry is taken to the FBI and questioned by the hard-nosed Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) and Air Force investigator Zoe Perez (Dawson). Jerry receives a phone call from a mysterious female, who organizes his escape and rendezvous with Rachel Holloman (Monaghan), a woman in a similar situation and whose son’s life may hang in the balance.
For its first half, Eagle Eye actually teases us into thinking it may become something resembling good. There is always an air of intrigue when paranoia is harnessed in a fashion that affects us all. The screenwriters, four in all, and director D.J. Caruso completely squander any opportunity to be original and instead opt to make a generic and completely unsatisfying thriller. Laced with incomprehensible action and a few Final Destination-esque deaths, Eagle Eye mainly finds itself being laughed at. The giggles turn to uproarious laughter when you actually find out what is responsible for the hell that Jerry and Rachel are going through.
It’s hard to fault the cast. Shia LaBeouf is one of the best young actors working today, and he’s given a chance to show off his range here. His paranoia is infinitely more real than anything the screenwriters have concocted. His chemistry with Monaghan is questionable at best, however, as they spend most of the film bickering. Attempts at sentimentality fall flat. Billy Bob Thornton is entertaining, as always, as a wiseass FBI agent who has a few memorable one-liners.
I think few would disagree with Eagle Eye’s message that too much surveillance and technology could have counter-productive and dangerous effects, but the film itself is as slapdash as it could have possibly been. Perhaps I am alone, but these computer-generated, hyper-edited action scenes are not the least bit enthralling and instead cover up a lazily-written script with no original ideas or sense of purpose. This is a topic that shouldn’t be dumbed-down. I better take that back; I think they’re watching me…
Length: 118 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language.
Theatrical Release: September 26, 2008
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Written by: John Glenn & Travis Wright & Hillary Seitz & Dan McDermott.
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Ethan Embry