Paramount // 2009 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // July 16th, 2009
Security comes at a price...
I've seen this movie before.
Max Peterson's (Shane West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) job is to upgrade computer security; he's currently in Thailand doing just that. Upon completing the upgrade, he returns to his hotel, preparing to fly back home. But he receives an unexpected package from the desk clerk and inside it finds a very high-end cell phone. The phone soon starts receiving text messages, the first of which entices him to extend his stay in Thailand. That's extremely fortunate as his original flight ends up crashing, killing everyone on board. Soon Max realizes the texts are all accurate and not just advertisements, and he is swayed to follow its lead to go to Prague. He quickly finds himself in trouble with the FBI, NSA, and a local casino; all of whom want to know where he got the phone and who is sending him these messages. The answer to those questions will rock Homeland Security.
There is such an easy way to write this review, but I feel it's a bit of a cheat if I go that route. Instead I need to find a way to build to the big, obvious, climactic finish. According to the packaging, Echelon Conspiracy is a "techno-charged, edge-of-your-seat action thriller." According to reality, it isn't. Meshed in potential and possibilities, this movie is a B-action movie with delusions of grandeur. It thinks it has an A-level script, A-level acting, and A-level action, but it all falls just a bit short. The problem is that (and so much for building to that big finish) you've seen this movie before, it wasn't all that long ago, and Echelon isn't supposed to be a remake. No. As soon as Echelon gets going you immediately realize this is just a knockoff of Eagle Eye starring Shia LeBeouf. It's practically the same plot with the same complications all building to pretty much the same resolution. It takes a few different steps along the way, but it honestly is just the same movie...without as big a budget.
So it boils down to your appreciation of the techno-thriller. How much did you enjoy Eagle Eye? Take that score, subtract a few points, and that will quantify your appreciation for Echelon. On top of that you might want to ask yourself if you really want to watch the same movie all over again.
If it weren't for it being a "rehash," what would I think of the movie? It's not a bad movie. There certainly was an attempt to make an interesting and intriguing techno-action flick, and it comes together reasonably well. It's just a B-movie with some pretty good moments surrounded by others that just slightly miss the mark. That mark is mostly missed in the action sequences. It isn't readily apparent until the "big" car chase, but the action scenes aren't very dynamic. Yes, there's running and chasing and cars and guns, but it's all toned down; and it's perfectly encapsulated in that car chase. As you watch the cars zip down the streets, you realize that they are literally chasing each other. That doesn't sound bad until your brain begins to wonder why the cars aren't ramming into each other, nobody is shooting, and no cars have veered off and crashed. It's literally just cars driving through the streets. But then as you think all hope is lost, the chase devolves into typical Hollywood hoopla with guns, crashing, and explosions. It just took a long while to get there.
In spite of all this, I mildly enjoyed Echelon Conspiracy. As a B-movie that went straight to video (technically not true, but it only made $500,000 in theaters), it's a decent enough romp. You get a smattering of decent acting -- tossed in with some hammy overacting -- nice locales, and not the worst action sequences you'll come across. On top of that, the actors have their moments -- Shane West, Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible), Edward Burns (Confidence), and Martin Sheen (The West Wing) -- and they do add a little starpower to the lineup.
But here's the final problem with Echelon Conspiracy: its ending. Once we make this "big" and "startling" revelation, Shane has to use his computer skills to save the day. So what does he do? He borrows the logic of Captain James T. Kirk to confuse the computer, and then he watches it ala Matthew Broderick in Wargames waiting for it to come to the right conclusion. It's just such an obvious moment it takes you completely out of the movie, as you wait for the computer to start spouting "love does not compute."
The tech specs for this Blu-ray will make most viewers of Echelon happy. Video is a 2.35:1 1080p print that has rich, accurate colors, nice contrast for deep blacks, and a great level of detail. For 99% of the presentation it was all smooth and flawless, but then doing the sex scene, there was noticeable and significant amount of aliasing and shimmer along with would I would call a stutter in the print -- like a film reel being stuck on a frame for a split second...a couple of times. Audio is a solid Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix than easily handles whatever the movie has to throw at it. Dialogue is always clean and precise, surrounds add a nice level of atmosphere, and the poor subwoofer, somewhat neglected, handles his minimal use well.
Shame, shame, shame! There's absolutely not one scrap of bonus material on this disc.
Of funny note -- to me -- is one small tidbit I noticed. When we visit the office of the chief FBI/NSA/secret government agency guy, there's a picture of George W. Bush on the wall. I guess this movie's idea plays best during his administration.
A few months ago, I had to travel home as one of my parents was going to have some surgery. At the last second I rented a couple movies from iTunes and put them on my iPod Touch. I figured it would be a great way to pass the time in the waiting room -- and I was right. The first movie was Eagle Eye and it worked really well on my mini-screen. It had its moments, wasn't all that good, but it was a great diversion in a hospital. Seeing that Echelon Conspiracy is nothing more than Eagle Eye minus the über budget, I think I would have found it more pleasing if I had seen this one on my iPod as well. It's a rehash, it's a B-level movie, it's a disc with a less-than perfect video transfer, and it gives you zero bonus material. With all that said, there's no reason whatsoever to buy this movie. At best, it's a rental -- especially if you haven't seen Eagle Eye.
Echelon Conspiracy is hereby found guilty of identity theft.
Review content copyright © 2009 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Official Site