EAGLE EYE - Blu-ray review

...has everything going for it but believability and common sense. But who ever said those components were essential to selling a thriller?

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

"Charlie's Angels," "I, Robot," "Constantine," "Transformers," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull": It looks as though Shia LaBeouf is Hollywood's new adventure-hero golden boy. In "Eagle Eye" we get more of the same, this time the actor paired up with his director from "Disturbia," D.J. Caruso. With a big budget, a Blu-ray transfer, and explosive action every ten seconds, "Eagle Eye" has everything going for it but believability and common sense. But who ever said those components were essential to selling a thriller? The main thing is that it looks and sounds good in high definition.

"Eagle Eye" attempts to be topical, up-to-date, taking on the subjects of high-tech antiterrorism, government surveillance, public paranoia, and such, but the movie starts right out on such an improbably ridiculous note, it rather spoils the rest of the picture. We see the military using a drone spy plane to check out a suspected terrorist leader in the Mideast, the suspect heading across the desert in a car caravan. When he leaves his car in a small village, the military computers calculate there is a 51% probability that he is the guy they're after. The Secretary of Defense decides to take him out with a missile. But does the military wait until the suspect gets back into his car and heads back into open spaces? No. They blow him up in the middle of the village and kill about 800 innocent civilians in the process. Come on! Even the most callous critic of U.S. antiterrorist policy wouldn't accuse the government of being that dumb, and I'm not being sarcastic.

So, from the very beginning, the overriding word for "Eagle Eye" is "dumb." Expect the movie to exaggerate all aspects of the real world and real-world technology. You see, the thing here is that the baddies know everything about everyone and can control everybody's every move. They not only can eavesdrop on your phone conversations, they can do so even if you've turned your cell phone off. They can use every security camera in every corner of the country, from convenience stores to intersections to within the Pentagon itself, to watch your every move; and they can control every computerized device under the sun to monitor and direct your every activity. The baddies are all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. The question is, Who are these baddies? Is it our own government, a hostile country, an international conspiracy like SPECTRE or QUANTUM? When you find out the answer, you'll laugh, it's so ludicrous. But I'll give you a hint: LaBeouf has been through this before. Besides, how all-knowing could the baddies be when they can't even pronounce "Porsche" correctly?

Anyway, LaBeouf plays Jerry Shaw, a Stanford dropout currently working in a copy store. His twin brother, Ethan, was the darling of the family and the apple of his father's eye because Ethan graduated from college and got a high-security job with the defense department. The father has no respect for Jerry's slacker attitude.

Then Ethan dies, and after the funeral Jerry finds $250,000 deposited in his bank account and a ton of weaponry in his apartment. Suddenly, the FBI show up and arrest him as a terrorist. But that's just the beginning. A woman's voice on his cell phone instructs him how to escape FBI headquarters, and Jerry reluctantly follows her directions, with half the country's security forces on his tail.

And that's about it. The rest of the movie, the next hour and three-quarters, is one long, hyperkinetic chase, with the audience wondering what in the heck is happening and how the voice on the cell phone can control so much of the goings on: changing stop lights, directing automated cranes, flashing instructions to Jerry from computerized signs, etc. The running, shooting, and smashups quickly become tiring.

The plot gets sillier as it goes along. Jerry soon picks up a partner in this escapade, a young woman as equally in the dark about what's going on as Jerry is. She is Rachel Holloman (played by Michelle Monaghan, whom I keep getting confused with Bridget Moynahan), a divorced mother and paralegal. While neither LaBeouf nor the movie ever makes Jerry a very sympathetic character, Ms. Monaghan does make us feel rather sorry for Rachel's plight. Be aware, however, that the late film critic Gene Siskel would not have been pleased, because the story puts a child in danger.

The other major players in this adventure are Billy Bob Thonton as an FBI agent and Rosario Dawson as an Air Force OSI (Office of Special Investigations) agent, both in hot pursuit of Jerry and Rachel. Will they figure out what's going on before Jerry and Rachel determine what's happening to them? Do we care?

You thought "Transformers" was a stretcher? At least the filmmakers intended that movie as a comic-book fantasy. With "Eagle Eye," the filmmakers want us to take everything in earnest, yet everything is so implausible, it's close to impossible to do so. LaBeouf has been through this kind of thing before and undoubtedly will be again, but Monaghan deserves better.

"Eagle Eye" is so flimsy and its events so inconceivable that it reminds one of a spoofy Roger Moore James Bond epic. Yet, as I say, it's not a spoof. It's supposed to be seriously suspenseful and exciting. Still, all that said, I can't say I completely disliked the movie. LaBeouf's character, although unsympathetic, is glib, resourceful, and pleasant enough; Monaghan's character is sweet and appealing; the constant action may get wearisome, but it is well staged; and the whole production is slickly produced. The film moves along quickly, breathless as it may be, but for action fans it admittedly packs a wallop. So, it's not awful; it's just empty-headed.

DreamWorks present the film on Blu-ray disc in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio using a dual-layer BD50, 1080p, MPEG-4/AVC transfer. As with so many action thrillers these days, this one has a dark, gritty look to it, yet despite its intentionally dusky palette, it comes off pretty well, with deep black levels, solid colors, and fairly good high definition, although there are still occasional instances of softness, probably inherent to the original filming. Facial tones are usually natural in appearance, and beyond a fine, natural print grain, the screen is generally clean and clear.

The movie sports an action flick's typically robust soundtrack, this time in lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1, with plenty of deep, taut bass, strong dynamic impact, and plentiful surround activity. Indeed, there is almost as much response from the side and rear channels as from the front channels. The trouble I had with the regular Dolby Digital sound on the standard-def disc was that it was so nonstop noisy that the loudest passages tended to obscure the film's dialogue. With the TrueHD I didn't have this concern. I was able to decipher all of the character's speech no matter what the background effects were like. Moreover, directivity is as exceptional as ever, so expect to hear explosions, crashes, booms, bangs, gunshots, subway trains, speeding cars, helicopters, airplanes, you name it, from all six or eight speakers. The soundtrack remains overly busy, true, but at least it's smoother and clearer in TrueHD than in its lossy, brighter, edgier Dolby Digital counterpart.

This Blu-ray disc contains everything that DreamWorks put on their 2-Disc Special Edition, which means the usual load of bonus items, this time almost entirely in high definition. As I was watching them the first time around, I couldn't help wondering how much money studios must spend on filming and assembling these things. I mean, studios must have whole crews out filming the filming. We've even had some documentaries on the filming of documentaries about the filming of movies; take the making of "Hearts of Darkness," for instance, the documentary on the making of "Apocalypse Now." And why is it that studios always feel that the better the film did at the box office, the more extras they need to include on the special editions? Shouldn't it be the other way around? They don't need to "sell" a popular title to the buying public; they'll buy it in any case. I dunno. Life is a mystery.

First up among the extras are four deleted scenes, including an alternate ending, lasting about four-and-a-half minutes. After that is a twenty-five-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary, "Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye." It's nothing we haven't seen before. Then there is a six-minute featurette, "Eagle Eye on Location: Washington, D.C.," about the famous locations the filmmakers used. Next up is the nine-minute featurette "Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me?," which reiterates the movie's premise that people are watching us all the time, followed by the nine-minute "Shall We Play a Game?," wherein director D.J. Caruso converses with his old mentor, director John Badham ("War Games").

Additionally, we get a brief, three-minute featurette, "Road Trip," detailing some of the location shooting with the cast and crew; a seven-minute gag reel; a photo gallery (SD); and a widescreen theatrical trailer.

Things finish up with twenty-four scene selections and bookmarks; pop-up menus; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Shots:
The question, I suppose, is why some movies just as preposterous as "Eagle Eye" can get away with their far-fetched action while others, like this one, just make us roll our eyes and groan. The answer obviously is in the movie's tone. Either a movie has to make light of the improbable action, as the "Indiana Jones" or " Die Hard" series do, or make the action seem at least remotely possible, as Christopher Nolan's "Batman" films or the Daniel Craig Bond films do. The biggest problem with "Eagle Eye" is that it takes itself too seriously without making us believe in any of it.

Let me put it another way: There is no reason why a good action movie, no matter how harebrained it may be, cannot satisfy even the most demanding audience. The trick is for it to follow its own internal logic; it must adhere to the rules it sets down for itself. Otherwise, viewers have no reason to suspend their disbelief. "Eagle Eye" does not follow its own rules; it tries to be realistic yet it's absurd at the same time, and the result is disconcerting.

Nevertheless, if you're an action fan, the movie's got plenty of that--action--even if it's "plenty" to the point of being tiresome. More important, this is a movie made not only for action fans but for audiovisual enthusiasts as well, with a big emphasis on the lossless TrueHD audio.


Film Value