On this evidence, producer Steven Spielberg – who seems to have some sort of vested interest in Shia LaBeouf being accepted as a star – wants to feature LaBeouf in remakes of the entire Alfred Hitchcock-James Stewart canon. After Disturbia, which was actionably close to Rear Window, this is a spin on the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much — down to a concert hall assassination to be triggered by a particular note in a musical performance. One quivers at the thought of which teen princess will have to go the Kim Novak route if Spielberg puts LaBeouf through Vertigo. The multi-authored script is based on an original story by Spielberg, which anyone who remembers the Amazing Stories TV series will know isn’t a good idea – he tends to go with half-baked, second-hand ideas if he isn’t going to have to direct them himself, and Eagle Eye constantly trips over bits we’ve seen before.
In a complicated set-up, the story kicks in the near future off with a US President (an old white guy) overruling the Secretary of Defence (Michael Chiklis) and the advice of a super-computer to sanction an air strike against someone there’s a 49% possibility isn’t the Osama bin Laden type they’re hoping to nail, and taking out an innocent funeral party in some third world desert prompting retaliation against American citizens around the world. Then, we pick up slacker Jerry Shaw (Shia), attending the funeral of his higher-achieving twin brother and weathering the disapproval of his stern father (William Sadler). When Jerry gets back to his apartment to find it stuffed full of bomb-making equipment and weaponry ordered over the internet in his name, a mystery voice (an uncredited Julianne Moore) calls his mobile phone and tells him to run. He’s scooped by a federal agent (Billy Bob Thornton) and uselessly declares his innocence – only to be busted out of custody when a crane cuts a slice out of the building. He is driven away from the scene by single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), whose son is en route to toot at a concert for the President and has also been ‘activated’ by the voice, who keeps threatening to kill her son if she doesn’t comply. An air force investigator (Rosario Dawson) is on the case too, and the couple’s escapes are abetted by the voice’s ability to hack into traffic lights, crane controls, bank accounts, the postal system and every other facet of modern life – including, eventually, unmanned attack drones and a facility where a crystalline explosive has been developed for the government.
At the mid-point, a big dumb old idea almost provokes nostalgia – the mastermind behind the conspiracy is Aria, the overruled computer from the prologue who has found a loophole in the US Constitution it feels obligates the assassinations of most of the chain of command above it (one of the boffins trying to shut Aria down is called Bowman, a 2001 reference), but then the hackneyed stupidity of presenting this whiskery premise in a cutting edge techno-thriller defuses the wilder thrills of the remainder of the movie. It’s played mostly straight, but Aria’s scheme is almost endearingly daffy – involving Rachel wearing a pendant containing the jeweled explosive, which will be set off when her son hits that high note in ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ most Americans find impossible. The climax splits unhelpfully between the concert hall, with the main hero out to save the Prezz, and the Pentagon bunker as secondary types have to disable Aria (who looks like a blinged-up relative of the X-Men’s Cerebro). LaBeouf still can’t carry a film by himself, and his whiny, bullying underachiever act is so unappealing initially that Jerry’s eventual segue to proper heroism doesn’t come across; flashback glimpses of the star as the more conventional good guy twin don’t help, not to mention a loopy plot device involving facial recognition software and a block on the computer’s intent only someone who looks like Shia can revoke. Given the leading man’s weakness, it makes sense to surround him with good actors in prominent roles – though Monaghan, Dawson, Thornton and Chiklis get little to work with, and tend to be sidelined by plot busywork while Shia huffs towards the closing line. Director D.J. Caruso stages a few okay chases, but nothing on a par with, say, Wanted.