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Case Number 15319

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Eagle Eye

DreamWorks // 2008 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // December 23rd, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Paul Pritchard has recently contracted a nasty case of pink eye.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Eagle Eye (Blu-Ray) (published January 9th, 2009) and Eagle Eye: 2-Disc Special Edition (published January 2nd, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"We are everywhere."

Opening Statement

Originally conceived over twelve years ago, Eagle Eye is the brainchild of Steven Spielberg (Munich), who was himself once a candidate to direct the movie. Due to scheduling issues, the film was put on the backburner until D.J. Caruso, fresh from his success on Disturbia, came on board as director, with Spielberg serving as executive producer.

The lengthy delay in getting Eagle Eye from the page to the screen has resulted in the film being less sci-fi driven than first imagined, with everyday technology advancing to such a state that it now matches the concepts so relevant to the story. Well, almost, but to say anymore would be saying too much.

Facts of the Case

"Jerry Shaw, you have been activated." With those words the life of Jerry Shaw (Shia LeBeouf, Transformers) is turned upside down. Having only buried his brother that same morning, Jerry's head is in a whirl. Informed he must follow instructions or face the dire consequences, Jerry quickly finds himself thrown head first into a major conspiracy involving the U.S. military and, possibly, his deceased brother.

With the FBI pursuing him, following an unsolicited delivery of high-tech military equipment to his apartment, Jerry crosses paths with Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), a single mother who has also been "activated" and is complying in an effort to ensure her son's safety.

As Jerry and Rachel find themselves being monitored at every turn, the shocking truth begins to unravel.

The Evidence

Early trailers for Eagle Eye suggested a film aimed at fans of The Matrix and its ilk. With mysterious cell phone calls and hints of technology out of control, Eagle Eye made for a tantalizing proposition. Fast forward to the film's theatrical release, however, and most of the enthusiasm the trailers might have earned was washed away in a sea of negative reviews. Now released on DVD, it's time to reassess Eagle Eye and see whether the lengthy gestation period it went through to get to the screen was worth it after all.

Starring Shia LeBeouf, who continues his ascent towards the A-list whilst talkbackers on certain Internet forums continue to spit venom at him, Eagle Eye has a surprisingly good cast, all of whom put in solid rather than spectacular work. The main problem is the dialogue they are given, which so often fails to rise above hokey action-movie clichés. Both LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan suffer the most; each is dragged down by a totally unnecessary backstory that only serves to make proceedings more predictable. Lebeouf's Jerry Shaw is quickly set on the well-worn path of redemption as the black sheep of the family, who has lived his whole life in the shadow of his far more successful twin brother. Monaghan gets less to work with, but is given the role of the single mother who dotes on her son and despises his deadbeat dad. Both are your typical action-movie fish-out-of-water types. Billy Bob Thornton (Monster's Ball), Rosario Dawson (Sin City), and Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four), are all given one-note roles that really make no use of their respective talents.

Critically, and despite the cast's best efforts, I don't recall even once feeling any empathy towards these characters. I cared not for their fates. For all the peril they are placed in and no matter how great the size of the threat becomes (and, trust me, once fully revealed the plot is large in its scope), Eagle Eye is a very difficult film to get involved in. Though partly due to poorly written characters, a great deal of blame for the lack of compassion felt must surely lie with the preposterous story. Things start well enough, with the first act setting up plenty of intrigue, but rapidly fall apart when the time comes to lift the curtain and reveal what is really going on. Once the identity of the voice behind the mysterious phone calls is disclosed, Eagle Eye begins to nosedive.

Action scenes, though occasionally showing some invention, are all too often flat. Two sequences stand out, the first of which involves a car chase through a junkyard. As LeBeouf and Monaghan make their escape through the piles of wreckage, cranes crash down all around them, picking up and throwing police cars or dropping huge piles of twisted metal upon them. Despite some excellent FX work, the sequence is nowhere near as exciting as it promises to be. The second standout action scene, which comes closest to delivering on its promise, involves a drone aircraft swooping down and launching an attack in a tunnel. The sequence is exciting, extremely well shot, and, though it really amounts to nothing more than a few big explosions, is what the rest of the action sequences in Eagle Eye strive to be like.

Containing plenty of nighttime scenes, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer holds up well. Sharp throughout, the picture contains exceptional levels of detail with an excellent color palette. Just as impressive is the 5.1 surround mix. While action scenes make the best use of rear speakers, even simple dialogue-driven scenes are notable for the clarity of each individual sound.

This single-disc release is lacking much in the way of special features. A few deleted scenes join the short "Road Trip" featurette, which acts as a brief making-of.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Eagle Eye is most successful in its examination of the way governments have exploited people's fears post-9/11. Be it CCTV cameras on every street corner, cell phone interceptions, or huge databases full of information on everyday citizens, the concerns over a big brother state are well-handled and easily the most interesting aspect of Eagle Eye. Had the film followed this route more and excised its more fantastical elements, we might have had a far better movie.

Closing Statement

Playing out like a poor man's Enemy of the State, Eagle Eye never lives up to its initial promise and quickly descends into a quite silly plot that loses credibility fast.

The Verdict

For acting in contravention of its programming objectives, Eagle Eye has been classified guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 92
Audio: 90
Extras: 20
Acting: 88
Story: 50
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: DreamWorks
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Action
• Science Fiction
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Road Trip: On Location With The Cast And Crew

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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