Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Eagle Eye Fails To Soar Like An...Airborne Creature


Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) and single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monoghan) were once total strangers. They were living such radically different lives that it's easy to imagine they would have never met under traditional circumstances. But the circumstances informing their story in Eagle Eye are anything but traditional. Jerry and Rachel are united through a mysterious female voice that commands them to do what she says. Intimidating our two leads is the fact that this voice has control over all electronics, she basically can run the world. Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie and Billy Bob Thornton are also around in this 2008 thriller from I Am Number Four auteur D.J. Caruso.

Eagle Eye has a strange sense of pacing. The movie kicks off with a bang and then some, as the first big set piece starts with LaBeouf being broken out of a government building by a goddamn crane. From there, LaBeouf leaps to the ground unharmed (sure) and then hops on a train. Shortly afterwards, an extended car chase ensues that involves countless cars getting piled up and culminates in gigantic garbage yard cranes picking up cop cars. It's all so large-in-scale but it's not indicative of what's to come. Aside from a quick drone chase scene in the climax, the rest of Eagle Eye is more on the order of a political thriller than a Michael Bay movie. 

Starting the suspense thriller part of Eagle Eye off on such an intense note leaves the story with nowhere to go but down. It's a puzzling choice that doesn't really play into the themes or characters. Nor does it prove to be an engaging maneuver in terms of entertainment. Of course, going smaller-in-scale does play to D.J. Caruso's strengths as a filmmaker. Caruso just cannot do large-scale action. That car chase sequence is just dismally executed, it's all a bunch of quick cuts and close-ups that render the exciting as just nauseating. I could hardly tell who was who and what has happening. I just know some cars got smashed and that eventually, our two lead characters hopped a garbage barge. Otherwise, it's all a blur thanks to the poor directing and editing.

It's not like Eagle Eye transforms into a masterful suspense thriller after this dud car chase is done. But Caruso seems way more comfortable handling people racing down hallways to beat timers than he does handling cranes flipping over cop cars.  Meanwhile, the script for Eagle Eye is a helpful demonstration on how often American movies try to be politically relevant without ever actually taking a stand on things. Drone warfare, war in the Middle East, government surveillance, all these hot button topics of 2008 (and even 2020) get namedropped here. Rather than have anything meaningful to say about how specific countries, like America, approach those topics, though, Eagle Eye just uses them as a gateway for a generic sci-fi thriller.

By the end, it's just an A.I. system gone awry that's been behind everything in the movie. There is no larger points to be made about how America approaches surveillance technology in warfare or any other scenario. I practically burst out laughing when one of the last lines in the movie boiled down to Michael Chiklis simply saying "We must continue to do intelligence operations but we cannot allow this to happen again." I'm not sure there's a lot of political debates going on about whether or not we should allow GLADoS from Portal meets HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey to run military operations. In the end, Eagle Eye bravely takes a stand that a fictitious issue that can't happen in real life should not happen. What brave social commentary.

Clearly, Eagle Eye is not very good. This is despite starring two people (particularly Monoghan) who never really got the roles they deserved in mainstream Hollywood fare. One random observation; was Shia LaBeouf the last male movie star to not follow the same super-shredded physique all 2010's movie stars do? LaBeouf actually looks like a human in a way that Chris Hemsworth and such don't. It's interesting to contemplate LaBeouf being the last of his kind in terms of the blockbuster leading man. At least it's more interesting than most of what happens in Eagle Eye. Credit where credit is due, though, the quick pacing of the movie and its preposterous nature do make it fine DIY MST3K fodder. I bet a bunch of friends could have a ball just poking fun at all the bizarrely written dialogue. 

At least Eagle Eye mildly succeeds on some level, even if it isn't anywhere near where director D.J. Caruso and company intended.

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