“You’ve been activated”
Eagle Eye seems to have had a very interesting conception. When checking the IMDB credits, you can see four names officially down as writers on the project, one that it appears has been in Steven Spielberg’s wheelhouse for quite some time, waiting patiently for technology to do it justice. However, all the buzz and press are praising wunderkinds Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman as the screenwriters. After watching the high-action, high-octane car chases and explosions, I am one to believe the duo behind Transformers are pulling the strings. Whether it’s an original vision of the subject or rewrites on an existing draft, who knows? The fact of the matter is that this film contains a lot of excitement, adrenaline-pumping setpieces, and pedal to the floor pacing. One thing that won’t happen—whether you buy into the Big Brother meets HAL plot or not—is boredom. That is an impossibility.
The plot is very well orchestrated; good job whoever should receive the credit. Right from the start we are shown our lead character Jerry Shaw’s penchant for slacking and living day-to-day without the means to even pay his rent. He is the epitome of the new action hero, an under-motivated, intelligent dropout just waiting, subconsciously, to be given the chance to matter. His twin brother, a military/Air Force man, has just passed away and after burying him, Jerry gets caught up in a web of governmental and terrorist intrigue. Framed as an enemy of the state, our lead, the always-entertaining Shia LaBeouf, must follow the instructions being relayed to him via a woman’s voice on his phone. The voice sets his escape into motion and—now a fugitive of the law—he meets up with many other people being told what to do by her. Michelle Monaghan’s role, Rachel, is the most embedded of these strangers, not blackmailed by jailtime or death, but instead by the murder of her son. Both Rachel and Jerry become caught in a life-or-death situation that is way too big for them, or even us, to comprehend.
Now I don’t mean to make it sound that I thought the film was convoluted or anything, it’s actually pretty well plotted. Holes seem plugged up and everything that gets set into motion at the start comes to play later on. Nothing shown onscreen is wasted, it all plays a factor in the outcome. The general clichés are all present of course; this is a Hollywood action film after all. Besides LaBeouf’s perfect hero evolution, we get the single mom, strong-willed and capable of anything when pushed against a wall; the hard, by-the-book cop who gets so involved in the case that he begins to uncover the conspiracy and risk maybe trying to intervene by helping those which appear to be the enemy; and the politician, capable of making the tough decisions, but never willing to let the power corrupt his morals, despite what could be his if all goes to plan. The beauty of the film is that those stereotypes are integral pieces to the puzzle. The psychology of their roles makes what needs to happen occur. Just as the super-computer reads everyone’s file and body language to predict their movements, the script utilizes their inherent traits to allow the story to make sense in a logical way.
What really helps you take your mind off of the contrivances, though, is the non-stop action. There are so many car chases, and each one sprinkled with explosions and surprises. I give credit to D.J. Caruso for helming this thing to such success being that he’s never been behind the camera on an actioner like it. Director of the criminally underrated Salton Sea and last year’s LaBeouf vehicle Disturbia, I wasn’t sure how he’d handle the choreography and speed necessary. The guy did well, especially being that he could handle the quieter moments that helped bridge the chaos. Much of the film is seen through the lenses of technology, whether that be security cameras, voices over cell phones, radar footprints shown digitally over a map of the US, or even the sound vibrations from a cup of coffee. It all adds to the futuristic feel and I’m sure will cause many people to gasp at the possibility we may all be under the same surveillance in the real world as we sit watching.
The cast also works with the script, fleshing out the characters and making the unbelievable seem like it could happen. LaBeouf has a little scruff, trying to make him look older, but it’s really just his everyman look and witty retorts that make him successful. Ever since “Even Stevens”, the kid is just likeable. Monaghan adds another solid role to her expanding resume, playing the desperate mother on a journey to save her son. A puppet to the plan underlying the entire film, she goes though a wide range of emotions and pulls them all off. The rest of the ensemble includes some very familiar faces: Anthony Mackie, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, and Ethan Embry (What’s with his small serious cameos lately? This guy used to be groomed to take on the small comedy world). The most notable supporting role comes from Billy Bob Thornton, actually getting a part that doesn’t necessitate his usual surly and vulgar disposition of late. It’s a very human role that evolves a great deal while also adding some brilliant comic relief from his cynical sarcasm.
With all the praise I have for Eagle Eye and all the fun, it does fall into the Hollywood trap. The final five minutes or so are so tacked on and unnecessary they only make you think how great a bittersweet ending could have been. Hey, these guys need to recoup some money off the decent chunk of change laid down to finance this thing, so they must cater to the general public. Sometimes that means excising the proper conclusion, one fitting in tone and structure, in order to show a watered down feel-good smile-inducing epilogue after it. We can’t all be perfect.
Eagle Eye 8/10 | ★ ★ ★
 Shia LaBeouf stars as Jerry Shaw and Michelle Monaghan stars as Rachel Holloman in DreamWorks SKG’s Eagle Eye (2008). Photo credit by Ralph Nelson. Copyright © DreamWorks SKG. All Rights Reserved.
 Billy Bob Thornton stars as Agent Morgan in DreamWorks SKG’s Eagle Eye (2008) Copyright © DreamWorks SKG. All Rights Reserved.