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Published: 2008-09-25 - 10:36:52
Movies : Reviews

Eagle Eye Review

By Karen Dahlstrom

"Eye" Strain

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In a time full of improbable events, probably the most improbable is that Shia LaBeouf has become a Hollywood action star. Thank (or blame) executive producer Steven Spielberg, who cast the baby-faced LaBeouf in the "Transformers" franchise, the latest Indiana Jones film, and now "Eagle Eye" — LaBeouf's first foray into "adult" roles. The guy must have some kind of talent, though his qualifications for action hero were apparently based on his ability to say "NONONONONO" as he ran from computer-generated robots. With a more mature script and some strategically-placed facial hair, can Shia make the leap to big-boy roles?

In "Eagle Eye", LaBeouf plays Jerry Shaw, a 20-something slacker slaving away in a Chicago copy shop. He spends his days beating his coworkers at poker, flirting with girls on the "El" train and ducking his landlady. Jerry's world changes with the untimely death of his twin brother, Ethan. While Jerry was the underachiever, Ethan was his parents' pride and joy — a brilliant student, star athlete and an Air Force public relations officer. Jerry goes home for the funeral, only to be faced with his father's disappointment and a reminder of his own shortcomings.

Upon his return, Jerry finds $750,000 in his bank account and his apartment chock-full of weapons and bomb-making chemicals. As the authorities close in, Jerry receives a call from a mysterious woman with instructions to flee. Before he can run, he's nabbed by the FBI. An improbable escape is engineered by "the voice", sending Jerry instructions via any and all available electronic media — cell phone, digital signs, television monitors, etc. Aiding in Jerry's escape is Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), a single mother also contacted by "the voice". If she refuses to comply, her son Sam will meet with a grisly accident. Together, Jerry and Rachel frantically follow the woman's instructions, racing from Chicago to D.C. to some unknown endgame. Disobeying is not an option, as their movements are constantly monitored.

Jerry and Rachel are pursued by FBI agent Thomas Morgan, played by Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton gives his best Tommy Lee Jones-in-"The Fugitive" impression as the wise-cracking southerner doggedly hunting down his prey. Joining in the pursuit is OSI Special Agent Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson), investigating Ethan's death on behalf of the Air Force. Resentful of having to share information with the military, Morgan is leery of Agent Perez. ("Leer" being the operative word, as it seems impossible for Thornton not to exude a degree of smarm when opposite Dawson). Dawson shows she's more than a pretty face as the tenacious Agent Perez, but her performance is ultimately forgettable.

As in "Transformers" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", LaBeouf is tasked primarily with moping, reacting and running. However, there are a couple of key scenes between Jerry and Rachel that hint at LaBeouf's potential. In the film's few quiet moments, his expressive eyes hint at a growing maturity and thoughtfulness — something that's been hidden or ignored in former roles — but he's not given enough time to explore it further. Monaghan is a pleasant enough actor, but she may be doomed to be the brunette whose name no one can remember. She and LaBeouf are able to generate a sister-brother chemistry, but their relationship is passionless.

Thankfully, there is little time for romance. The action is fast and furious as Jerry and Rachel race to meet the demands of "the voice" (sounding suspiciously like the OnStar system voice), while hotly pursued by both law enforcement and military. A good 75% of "Eagle Eye" is comprised of car chases and tire-squealing, glass-shattering, bone crunching wrecks. Indeed, this is where director D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia") shines. Set pieces involving car wrecks (of which there are many) are so visceral (and ear-splitting) that one almost wishes they could stop filming for a minute to check that everyone's alright.

The rest of the "Eagle Eye" is bogged down in commentary on electronic privacy, the Patriot Act and governmental accountability. The plot is silly and predictable (and should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen "WarGames"). Thanks to the nail-biting action sequences (and an engaging performance by Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") as the Secretary of State), "Eagle Eye" is a serviceable popcorn movie. And while Shia LaBeouf doesn't quite yet have the pull of a Will Smith or a Bruce Willis, he seems to be on his way.

What did you think?

Movie title Eagle Eye
Release year 2008
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary The government sees everything - except the obvious plot holes - in this formulaic but serviceable popcorn movie.
View all articles by Karen Dahlstrom
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