Directed by D.J. Caruso
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thorton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: December 27, 2008
Let’s get this out of the way upfront — Eagle Eye isn’t a bad movie. I’ve seen it listed on more than a few “Worst of 2008″ lists, and I just don’t agree with that assessment. Trust me, there’s much worse floating around out there.
What it is is a middle of the road “Big Brother” paranoia thriller with serviceable acting and a bunch of rather fun set pieces and action sequences. That’s it; nothing more, nothing less. Where it suffers is in its woefully late-to-the-ball timing. If this flick had been released 15 to 20 years ago, it would have worked a lot better.
The film hinges on the audience being pulled into the paranoid realization that we can be watched, tracked, contacted, and controlled at all time due to the alarming amount of technology we allow into our daily lives. The problem is, as a society, we already know that. Who out there under the age of 60 isn’t well aware that much of our lives are out on the internet for the taking? I’m guessing not many”¦ So without being able to build that paranoia in the audience, the “thriller” part of this thriller just doesn’t work.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here: War Games was probably the last time this notion was really going to fly.
Of course all of this isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did. And I’ll tell you why — I like Shia LaBeouf. There, I said it. Sue me. I know there’s a lot of backlash against the kid out there. That’s bound to happen. His star is rising a little too fast for people, so they inevitably feel the need to hate him. But not me.
I’d love to say he’s been on my radar since his Disney Channel days starring in the series Even Stevens, but that would be a lie. I’d love to say that I saw the movie Holes and agreed with the critical praise sent his way. But I didn’t.
No, my first impression of LaBeouf came during my addiction to the show Project Greenlight and the season in which they chronicled the making of the film The Battle of Shaker Heights. Right from LaBeouf’s audition on the show through his overnight struggle with a ridiculously difficult scene, I was hooked. I’m convinced the kid’s got the goods, and sooner rather than later he’s going to get the mature kind of role to really prove it. Until then, I’m more than happy to see him on screen wherever Steven Spielberg sees fit.
He embodies today’s young everyman very well. He captures that essence of projecting self-confidence when you’re really brimming with self-doubt. And he does it really well here. Unfortunately, he isn’t surrounded with much else.
Billy Bob Thorton is serviceable as an agent who believes LaBeouf’s Jerry Shaw could be a terrorist and is on his tail. Rosario Dawson is just OK. Michael Chiklis is as good as ever, if underused. And Michelle Monaghan tries to hold her own sharing scenes with the motor-mouthed LaBeouf but more often than not comes off looking a bit slack-jawed.
Director D.J. Caruso, who’s done amazing work on The Shield and showed a real talent for pacing with Disturbia, takes a slight step backwards here. The film plays like one big chase scene, which could work if it wasn’t like one big chase scene from the Michael Bay school of directing. Too many cars flip, fly, crash, and explode. It’s just too much, too often.
Caruso is supposed to be the director who’s going to bring the brilliant comic book series Y: The Last Man to the screen (with LaBeouf as leading man Yorick). While I think that LaBeouf is absolutely perfect for the role, my faith in Caruso pulling it off has been shaken. It’s a project that needs a strong, but nuanced hand to really make it work, and I’m not certain that Caruso is that person.
But dammit, this is a Blu-ray review, so it’s time to get to the Blu-ray stuff! The film looks great. The colors are crisp and clean, even during the frantic chase sequences. The blacks are rich and deep. The film looks like we’ve come to expect a Blu-ray release of a newer film to look.
The sound design is also superb. Again, it all comes down to the chase scenes. With all of the screeching tires, crunching metal, and explosions, the sound needs to work. And it does.
What about the special features? The deleted scenes simply show that the editors knew what they were doing in cutting them. The making-of doc is typical. The Gag Reel feels unnecessary in a movie like this. While it’s fun to see the easy-going charm of LaBeouf on set, I’m never a fan of Gag Reels from non-comedies. It breaks some of the mystique of the set.
The big feature is obviously “Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me?” — a pseudo doc filled with talking heads (both academic and from the film) sermonizing on the techno-Big Brother premise of the film. Unfortunately, just like with the film itself, this doc suffers from a serious case of “Yeah, we know”¦” There’s nothing here to scare us. Nothing to build on the paranoia the film so desperately wants us to feel. Nothing to make you stand up and shout, “By golly, our Government can’t do that!”
Oh”¦ I guess I’m the only one who says “By golly,” huh? Fine.
Either way, Eagle Eye is a technically serviceable thriller with a serviceable cast that just came out a little over a decade too late. But it’s not one of the worst movies of the year. That’s a plus, right?