Monday, November 3, 2008

Eagle Eye

“Eagle Eye” is the stupidest film of the year, which is saying a lot. It’s contrived, ridiculous and headache-inducing from beginning to end. How do screenplays like this get approved? Have Hollywood’s standards sunk this low?

One gaping plot hole is so huge it thwarts the entire premise of the film. It’s possible I missed something, as I’ll admit to tuning out and thinking about what else I should have been doing instead of watching “Eagle Eye.”

Eagle Eye is a massive government-controlled machine that can manipulate every electronic, telephone, satellite, traffic light, etc. transmission in the country. This is one big machine. I’m still not sure if it’s under the auspices of the Department of Defense, the CIA, or the Air Force. (I may have missed the explanation, as it was likely buried under a continuous stream of lightning fast cutting and a pounding music cue. As anyone who’s seen an action movie in the last couple of years knows, even quiet scenes have to be filmed like Armageddon is occurring.)

Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), a worker at a copy store and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), a mother, are thrown together and commanded to follow a continuous stream of orders that come to them from TV screens, telephone calls, phone calls from passersby, etc. Jerry is framed and suspected by the FBI of being a terrorist and the life of Rachel’s son is threatened if she doesn’t cooperate. Ordered by an unseen voice on their cell phones, they travel cross-country to play their parts in the conspiracy.

For the life of me, I still can’t figure out why these two had to be involved. I must have missed something. Apparently there are sinister forces behind Eagle Eye who are doing the manipulating. Rachel is ordered to wear a piece of jewelry that would trigger an event during a concert her son is playing at during a Congressional session. Really, wouldn’t it have been simpler to send her a plane ticket and a pass to the concert? There could have been a note asking her to wear the jewelry for this special occasion. Wouldn’t the sinister cabal think this much more effective than creating a plot that causes entire city blocks to blow up and untold millions in property damage?

What Jerry is doing I have no idea. His twin brother, an intelligence agent, was killed and that has something to do with it, but I still can’t understand why he was essential to the plot. I truly don’t get it. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

Director D.J. Caruso choreographs (I hesitate to use the word direct) all this excess with great glee. Apparently the only thought that went into this movie was staging enormous scenes of CGI destruction. It also looks like lots of innocent lives were lost amid all the explosions and car crashes. We don’t see all these lives lost (that would interfere with our good time), and as long as the audience is having a blast with all this chaos, then that’s all that matters, isn’t it? It’s just more of the video game culture that is causing all these stupid action movies.

Poor Shia. Thrust into the leading man limelight too soon, I think. He’s angry and petulant throughout the whole thing. A more unlikable protagonist I haven’t seen in many a moon. He sports a growth of beard which is supposed to make him look grown up, but instead he looks like a baby-faced teenager playing at being an adult.

(By coincidence, he starred in the stupidest movie of 2007, “Transformers.” I can’t wait to see if he can go three for three in 2009. I hope not.)

Thank God Billy Bob Thornton is on hand as the FBI agent. One of our best actors, Thornton is a welcome presence whenever he’s on screen. He recently announced plans to stop acting, or at least slow down, and I’m sure scripts like “Eagle Eye” are the reason. I don’t blame him for accepting the role – even actors like to eat – but he must know what a colossal piece of junk he’s in and it’s likely retirement fantasies kicked in during filming.

Brian Tyler’s score is heavy on the synths and drum machines. It sounds exactly like every other action score composed over the last 10 years. Sometimes it drowns out the actor’s dialogue scenes, which aren’t helped by often being delivered in throaty whispers by LaBeouf and Monaghan. And they say movies from the Golden Age are over scored?

In an effort to find something worthwhile, I did enjoy the production design of the Eagle Eye. There is also a very nicely staged sequence set amidst electrical towers in the Indiana hinterlands. And the popcorn was good.

Rating for “Eagle Eye”: One star.

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