Thursday, October 9, 2008

Eagle Eye

"Where's LaBoeuf?"

Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) has just had $71,500 dropped into his bank account. Giddily, he snatches up the money, runs home, and pays two months rent in advance. The landlady mentions something about all the boxes. Jerry spins inside, turns on the light, and finds he's walked into a nightmare--crates of sensitive materials and bomb-making equipment, pistols, rifles, night-vison goggles, F-16 training manuals...oh, and several tons of ammonium nitrate--enough to level another Oklahoma municipal building.

The moment is so well-staged that it evokes an audience-wide "Woh!"

His cell phone rings. A female voice says, "The FBI will be at your apartment in thirty seconds. Get out now!" He hasn't learned to move fast enough yet.

Dedicated mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) has just shipped her son on a band-trip to Washington D.C. and is relaxing for some girl-talk and a boiler-maker when she gets a phone call. A female voice tells her to go outside and look at the window of the McDonald's across the street. On the promo monitor, she sees a "live" shot of her son en route, and the voice tells her to go to a specific parked car--right now--or her son will be killed. She goes.

Remember the story about the pizza-delivery guy who robbed a bank, got caught, and told the police that he was forced to do it or a necklace he was wearing would explode? And while waiting for the bomb squad, the device went off, killing him? Evidently, so did the screen-writers for much of "Eagle Eye" recalls that bizarre scenario of an innocent forced to commit acts against their will. But that organization attached to that voice must be near-messianic in scope because it can monitor your progress by hacking into security-cams, and eases their near-escapes with constant directions and remote access to reader-boards, cell-networks, automated machinery, traffic lights, military equipment, cranes, high-tension towers, anything electronic or capable of broadcasting, right down to the X-ray machines at the airport check-points. Needless to say, there's a scene at Circuit City where this anonymous group goes to town.

It's a movie that, more than any theater announcement, compels you to turn off your cell-phone in the theater.

Who or what organization is doing this and why? Throughout the movie, I was harboring the suspicion that whatever the reasoning behind the elaborate, sometimes crazy, plot, it would not live up to the preposterous hook of the film. But it almost does, using as it center a security risks that this nation has inscribed in its Constitution--a blunder as big as lining up all your planes at Pearl Harbor. It's a scenario that's been used before in spy/suspense fiction, and "Eagle Eye" owes a lot to those writers, as well as the scribes for such diverse films as "
I, Robot," "The Manchurian Candidate," "Colossus: The Forbin Project," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "2001: a Space Odyssey," "North By Northwest," "Telefon," "The Lady from Shanghai," and "The Conversation." That's quite a diverse roster of films, paranoia being their common thread.

D.J. Caruso helmed a previous Shia LaBoeuf box-office winner, "Disturbia," and manages to make wide-open landscapes as restrictive as the limited point-of-view of that earlier film. Sometimes too restrictive. Two highway smash-ups are shot so close that one gets no sense of the relationship of mayhem to mayhem--they could be happening in separate states for all we see. However, the strategy benefits a sequence utilizing an airport's baggage conveyorsystem--making it as dizzying as a turn through a carnival fun-house.

LaBoeuf has a bit more energy than he displayed in the "Indiana Jones" film, and Michelle Monaghan (of "Gone Baby Gone") shows she's just as capable doing action work as well. Billy Bob Thornton is wonderfully dry as an FBI agent, Rosario Dawson gets to be taken seriously as an Air Force investigator, and Michael Chiklis makes a fine Secretary of Defense.

It isn't art, but it's a good ride--a pop-corn movie with just as much shelf-life and nutrition-value, while being a nice little tumble through the history of techno-thrillers of the past thirty years.

"Eagle Eye" is a satisfying rental.

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