I don’t know whether it’s an indication of how blahtastic Eagle Eye was or how compelling the events on Capitol Hill and/or the campaign trail are, but what does it say about the movie that I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could plop my ass back down in front of CNN? Indeed, one of the central plot points in Eagle Eye involves the threat of a train wreck, while in Washington D.C., the train has derailed and is veering dangerously toward freeway traffic. I’ll take the real-life train wreck any day.
Take real life out of the equation, however, and Eagle Eye isn’t an atrocious movie. It’s nonsensical, wacky, and all over the place, but it’s watchable. Kind of. In fact, the best compliment I can pay to the movie is that it’s competent. It’s garbage, but it’s well-executed garbage. And for a good hour or so, it’s even entertaining — completely laughable, but entertaining all the same. Unfortunately, once the mystery is revealed, what little tension there is completely dissipates, swallowed up by a series of ludicrous explosions and lifeless chase scenes meant to shroud the fact that there is no there there.
Eagle Eye is probably best described as a generic cross between The Fugitive and 2001, which is to say it’s a Y-Gen sci-fi thriller. It’s Phillip Dick run through a studio filter and scripted by a computerized program with the voice of Wolf Blitzer. There’s a big idea beneath all the fire and digital effects, but it’s fangless, a homogenized Orwellian theme. That is, if Orwell wore a suit and was subject to the whims of test audiences. There’s so little of substance going on in the film that I fear revealing even one of the plot points will give it all away; once you know what it’s about, you know basically what’s going to happen.
Here’s the flimsiest of plot sketches: Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a slacker copy boy running on the fumes of his bank account. He is informed that his estranged twin brother — a military type — is killed in a freak traffic accident. An hour after the funeral, an ATM spits money at him and a shipment of bomb-making materials arrives in his apartment. He receives a phone call from an unknown woman with a clipped voice who delivers orders, and suddenly, the feds are after Jerry. Meanwhile, Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) receives a phone call from the same woman, telling her that if she doesn’t follow her orders, her son will be killed. The next thing you know, Rachel and Jerry are in cahoots with the phone woman, and they are robbing an armored truck, jumping out of windows, and running from a couple of FBI Agents (Billy Bob Thornton and Ethan Embry). Strangest of all, at least from a logical standpoint, they are ordered — through a series of tasks — to go from the East Coast to L.A., only to fly back to D.C., though nothing is gained from the trek either way. Beneath all of this, there’s some sort of convoluted, absurd web conspiracy involving the Facebook generation’s version of HAL. The less said about that, the better.
What’s so criminal about Eagle Eye is the amount of wasted talent that went into it. The script should’ve been given to one of Michael Bay’s personal assistants and a collection of feces-throwing monkeys. But Steven Spielberg is atop this manure heap, as executive producer, so the talent lined up. The biggest waste is D.J. Caruso, one of Spielberg’s protégés, who is a good director; he just hasn’t been given good material to work with yet (that should change when he directs Y: The Last Man). You can bag on Shia LaBeouf all you want, but he’s one of the better actors under the age of 25 (I know, that doesn’t mean a lot, but still …). Billy Bob Thornton is wasted in a lousy Tommy Lee Jones knock-off role; Michelle Monaghan is asked basically to look pretty and run; Rosario Dawson’s lips look great, even in a military uniform; and Michael Chiklis just clenches his jaw. A lot. Mostly, the action happens around them, and everyone looks like they’re trapped in a vortex of suck waiting for it to blow over so they can collect their paycheck.
The problem here is the script. The story idea allegedly came from Spielberg himself, who clearly cast off the leftovers from his Minority Report script. After that, a group of four screenwriters was brought in to flesh it out, which they apparently did by cutting and pasting scenes from Ridley Scott and Andrew Davis’ least greatest hits. It’s one of the most bland, studio-driven films I’ve seen in a great while — inoffensive, unoriginal, and brain dead. But it’s not a hard movie to watch, just a hard movie to enjoy.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in Portland, Maine. You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.2008: A Douchebag Odyssey
Film Reviews | September 26, 2008 | Comments ()