Eagle Eye (2008 dir. DJ Caruso
Starring: Shia Lebeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton
A modest surprise from last year was the latest in a string of hit films for budding star Shia Lebeouf. His rat-a-tat manner of speech rubs some people the wrong way, but there’s no doubting he’s a genuine movie-star. LeBeouf commands the screen as the underachieving lay-about turned reluctant CIA spy, and director DJ Caruso turns in a solid actioner refashioning trusted old genre elements of technological fears and big brother paranoia.
“Eagle Eye” plays like a “War Games”, "The Conversation", "Enemy of the State" updated to the war on terror. Like a 70’s surveillance paranoia flick made by Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer’s name is not on the film, but Caruso’s slick mondo action could easily be a calling card for one of his future films.
Lebeouf plays Jerry Shaw, a typical underachieving 20-something who chose to forgo Stanford in favour of seeing the world. Now he worksat a copyshop, pushing paper, retail. One day Shaw gets news that his twin brother has died in Iraq. A sad time for Jerry, a day which is coincidentally turned upside down when he checks his bank account and discovers $750,000 in his account. Jerry’s being set up for something, and his only way out is to follow the instructions of an unknown voice on his cell phone which guides him out of all kinds of contrived danger.
Meanwhile, poor Rachel Holloman's (Michelle Monaghan) son has been kidnapped and, like Jerry, is given instructions by the same mysterious female omniscient voice. Rachel and Jerry's paths eventually cross and find themselves partners in their mutual escape with the CIA in pursuit. Who is this mysterious voice guiding our heroes out of trouble? As things gets revealed we learn it's not international terrorists at bay but America's own over-indulged Homeland Security which is now backfiring against it's citizens.
The writers cleverly steal from Hitchcock’s everyman-turned spy-hero themes of "North-By-Northwest" and even direct theft of Hitch’s rowsing orchestra – assassination finale of “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Unfortunately Caruso’s climax which has Jerry trying to stop a bomb rigged to explode on a certain key in the Star-Spangled Banner doesn’t have near the suspenseful impact of Hitch’s film. Even "2001: A Space Odyssey" gets a nod as the evil 'Eagle-Eye' computer which runs amuck, a key character which plays like a female version of HAL.
The final moments hit some squirmy jingoistic notes. The place of America as the world’s police is only slightly chastised when Caruso tells us America needs to exercise more diplomacy instead of first strike, knee-jerk tactics. The prevalence of American flags waving in slow motion against Brian Tyler’s faux-rousing score seems to both skewer and support the government's accountability. If this film were made in the 1970’s we’d see much more cyncism.
The film was also arguably the coming out party for DJ Caruso, after a number of mediocre thrillers, which under lesser hands would have gone straight to video (“Distrubia”, “Two For the Money”), Caruso delivers 'Eagle Eye' with as much the loud cinematic muscle of any tier 1 blockbuster director. Enjoy.