DreamWorks // 2008 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // January 2nd, 2009
"Jerry Shaw, you have been activated. Your compliance is vital."
Eagle Eye reunites Shia LeBeouf with director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) for a project originally conceived by Steven Spielberg twelve years prior.
While the ideas and themes the movie presents are both very relevant and interesting, the film fails to sustain itself past the first act. The whole thing devolves into a mash-up of action movie clichés and sci-fi motifs that don't add up to anything substantial.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, our world has become a pretty small place. Everything is virtually connected. It would be a shame if, say, someone took advantage of all that.
For Jerry Shaw (Shia LeBeouf, Transformers) and Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan, Mission: Impossible III), that's exactly what happened. After his twin brother's death, Jerry, the black sheep of the family, finds his apartment mysteriously filled with enough munitions to lead a charge up San Juan Hill. Then his cell phone rings, and a soothing female voice informs him that he has 30 seconds to escape his apartment before the FBI arrives. He's been activated.
Rachel is in a similar situation. After sending her son off to Washington D.C. to play with the school band at the Kennedy Center, she's informed that if she doesn't comply with "Big Brother," her son will die.
Now, Jerry and Rachel must obey the every whim of the omniscient electronic voice. They're tracked via traffic cams, driven by cars with cruise control, and forced to do the dirty deeds of an unknown cyber villain...
Eagle Eye was conceived by Spielberg twelve years ago. It's a shame he was too busy making Amistad or The Lost Word: Jurassic Park instead of this, because it would have been much more interesting back then. In the mean time, however, movies with very similar premises have come on the scene to provide the same "Danger, Will Robinson!" message. Live Free or Die Hard comes to mind. Not only did that film have the same warning about connectivity and abuse of power, but it had a more convincing lead character trying to buck the system.
Perhaps it's a little unfair to compare Eagle Eye with a John McClain movie (which also, I might add, had a wise-cracking, young do-nothing in it). Eagle Eye is more about an internal threat than a terrorist. Sorry if that's spoiling things, but really you should have been able to figure that one out. The film's about the overreach of government, the loss of freedom, and the public's voluntary reduction of liberty for the sake of safety and technology. These are some weighty subjects that Eagle Eye is content to throw out there, but never really dwell on.
The film manages to be pretty compelling throughout its first act. The "activation" of Jerry and Rachel is creepy, and sort of sneaks in there after about 20 minutes of setup. Jerry's initial reaction is believable, as he tries to first explain, and then escape, the omniscient voice, named A.R.I.A.). After an awesome crane-smash-building sequence, and an angry mob subway scene, Jerry unites with Rachel and gives in to the voice's commands. It's when they're chased into the trash yard by Billy Bob Thornton doing his best "Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive" impersonation that the movie stopped being unique and started getting cookie cutter. Perhaps in the hands of a Hitchcock, or even Spielberg himself, things would have turned out better.
D.J. Caruso filmed much of the movie with practical effects, opting to avoid CGI unless it was absolutely necessary. This gives the film a much more textured, organic feel, but unfortunately the action scenes are framed and edited so poorly that any realism is lost. During a chase through Chicago, when A.R.I.A. is changing all of the traffic lights so that Jerry and Rachel can escape, the action is so visceral and confusing that the crunching cars and explosions become background fodder, fleeting snapshots of what could have been totally sweet. Even the tunnel scene (which, again, felt lifted from Live Free or Die Hard) was jumbled and subdued.
Speaking of subdued, Eagle Eye has a relatively dark, cold color palette. For the most part the transfer is crisp, with little to no grain even in the dark scenes; however, I found the black levels to be a tad flat at times. For a film that takes place mainly at night, I felt that the picture quality could have been a tad richer. The sound is much more impressive; the Dolby 5.1 Surround is especially effective in the scenes involving A.R.I.A.
This two-disc special edition was released simultaneously alongside the single-disc version. While the single disc contains just some deleted scenes and a featurette called Road Trip, this deluxe edition comes with a bevy of other features...many of which are uninteresting.
The second disc contains an alternate ending to the film, which basically just extends the ending that's already there and adds a new layer of "what the crap?" with a side of "product placement." Seriously, they managed to work Rock Band into the movie. Next up are a handful of extended behind-the-scenes featurettes: Asymmetrical Warfare goes a little deeper into how the film was made using practical effects; Eagle Eye On Location is more behind-the-scenes stuff about filming in the Library of Congress; Is My Cell Phone Spying On Me? is possibly the most interesting feature on the disc, discussing the rapidly developing techno culture in America and its effects on the legal system; and Shall We Play a Game?, which features a discussion between Caruso and War Games director John Badham that is only interesting if you really like both movies. Lastly, there is the usual gag reel, photo gallery, and trailer. None of this really justifies a second disc or the title of "special edition."
The first act in this techno-thriller is pretty interesting, but it quickly turns into a cookie-cutter conspiracy flick that feels all too familiar. Maybe if Spielberg had made this twelve years ago it would have been a cutting age sci-fi thriller. Today, it's just kind of boring. Eagle Eye raises some solid questions about our willingness to blindly embrace networked technology, but it doesn't have the patience to really offer up any answers or moral solutions.
In terms of the DVD release, you're certainly better off picking up the single disc edition, because the second disc of extras just isn't worth your time.
GUILTY...you hear that A.R.I.A.? Guilty!
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Ending
* Gag Reel
* Photo Gallery