Directed by D.J. Caruso. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Ethan Embry, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Azizi. (2008, PG-13, 118 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008
I could be wrong, but it feels like Eagle Eye is arriving in theatres a few months late. With its frenetic car chases; its near-erotic fascination with explosions, gadgets, and guns; and its improbable and, in the end, totally disposable storyline, it’s the very definition of a summer blockbuster: good, manic fun plus a heavy dose of political intrigue adding up to two hours of clamorous, mind-numbing nonsense. Had Will Smith agreed to play the role of Jerry Shaw, a sweet-talking slacker with a chip on his shoulder who gets dragged pissing and moaning in to a violent conspiracy against the U.S. government, the July Fourth weekend would have been all his. Instead we get LaBeouf, the former Disney Channel boy wonder, who may not have Smith’s magnetic appeal but who can grow a surprisingly good mustache. Not that director Caruso (Disturbia) has much time to stop and ogle him; ogling simply isn’t possible in a movie so bent on full-speed-ahead destruction. Within minutes of our meeting him – in the stockroom of the copy store where he works – Jerry is on the run from the FBI (led by a deliciously dyspeptic Thornton) after being framed as a terrorist for reasons he can’t understand and narrowly escaping the gaping maw of the post-PATRIOT Act American justice system with the help of a mysterious woman who contacts him by cell phone and who possesses the ability to manipulate the entirety of a city’s electrical system – including elevated trains, traffic lights, garbage cranes, LED news tickers, and power lines – to get what she wants. And what she wants is to either destroy or defend (depending on whom you ask) the American political system by teaming Jerry with an equally clueless young mother (Monaghan) and forcing them into a mission of near-impossible danger. Like Smith’s Enemy of the State, Eagle Eye’s backdrop is a world gone mad with surveillance and, like The Terminator trilogy, one where the machines have slipped their leashes and taken over. Only now, as befits our post-9/11 world of lingering ideological terrorism, governmental assaults on civil liberties, technological assaults on privacy, citizen paranoia, and rampant self-help pseudo-spirituality, the machines aren’t just despots; they’re political philosophers, defenders of liberty, psychoanalysts, father confessors, and destroyers of worlds, all rolled into one – multiheaded monsters for a terrifying age.