EAGLE EYE - DVD review

...one long, hyperkinetic chase, with the audience wondering what in the heck is happening.

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 action-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 and something blowing up every ten seconds, "Eagle Eye" has everything in it but believability and common sense. But who ever said those components were essential to selling an action thriller?

"Eagle Eye" attempts to be very 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 government itself, 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, albeit not as a main character.

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 about 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.

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 hated 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 disc in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio using an anamorphic transfer. As with so many action thrillers these days, this one has a dark metallic aspect to it, yet despite its dusky palette, it comes off looking pretty good, with deep black levels, solid colors, and fairly good definition for the SD format. Facial tones are usually natural in appearance, although occasionally a face will show up as slightly green tinted. I assume that's intentional.

The movie sports an action flick's typically robust Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, with plenty of big, boomy 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 with the sound is that it's too much of good thing. It's mostly nonstop noisy, with the loudest passages (which occur most of the time) obscuring the film's dialogue. Expect to hear explosions, crashes, booms, bangs, gunshots, subway trains, speeding cars, helicopters, airplanes, you name it, from all six or eight speakers. Some listeners will love the soundtrack and feel that it deserves a 10/10. However, as I felt about most of the rest of the movie, I thought it was overdone.

Disc one of this 2-Disc Special Edition contains the feature film plus a few assorted extras. First up among the extras are three deleted scenes lasting about three-and-a-half minutes. After that is a brief, three-minute featurette, "Road Trip," following some of the location shooting with the cast and crew.

Things finish up with twenty-four scene selections and English, French, and Spanish spoken languages and subtitles.

Disc two contains a load of additional bonus items, and as I was watching them, 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.

The first thing we get on the second disc is a one-minute alternate ending that seems a wasted a minute. Next, we get the main, twenty-five-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary "Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye." It's nothing we haven't seen before. After that is the six-minute featurette "Eagle Eye on Location: Washington, D.C.," about the famous locations the filmmakers used. Then there's the nine-minute "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"). Finally, we find a seven-minute gag reel, a photo gallery, and a widescreen theatrical trailer. The two discs come housed in a double, slim-line keep case, further enclosed in a handsome cardboard slipcover.

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 did, or make the action seem at least remotely possible, as Christopher Nolan's "Batman" films or the Daniel Craig Bond films did. 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.


Film Value