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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Eagle Eye (2008)

My notes on Eagle Eye (2008)

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.

Discussion

One thought on “Film review – Eagle Eye (2008)

  1. Valerie Laws
    I assumed Shia L was in the new Indy as he’s not a threat to Ford’s charisma – his James Dean-alike get up only underlined his lack of presence – why he’d get his own film is a mystery, let alone shedloads of them. With so many hungry young actors on the market, why him? Anyone spotted him rubbing an antique lamp in a marked manner, or chatting with a gentleman with a suspiciously horny hairdo?

    Anne Billson
    I thought he was the best thing in Transformers. Which I guess isn’t saying much.

    Rick Squires
    Shia may be the least of our concerns. I just read that Spielberg wants to remake Oldboy with Will Smith!!

    Tony Lovell
    I like La Beouf. I liked him in Disturbia (another Hitch redo).

    Phil Newton
    I liked Disturbia too, but Eagle Eye just became too ridiculous after the ‘big’ reveal… there’s also zero chemistry between LaBeouf and Monaghan. Only Billy Bob Thornton seems to be enjoying himself!

    Tony Lovell
    I’ve found I don’t mind remakes so much these days. I was watching the remake of The Omen recently when i saw a scene in it that was better than the originals; it was the mum being given the air bubble in the bed. You see, in the first movie she fell from a height, twice, and so to have her die in a different way was quite right. The Omen 06 isn’t great, but it does *some* things well.
    But yes, chemistry matters in a film. It’s why a show like Torchwood doesn’t work; the characters just do not gel at all, and we never make that step into their world.

    Tony Lovell
    BTW I very much enjoyed Transformers, too – at the time it was released I thought it was more funny (intentionally) than the Simpsons movie!

    Maitland McDonagh
    I just don’t get Shia LaBeouf.
    He’s not untalented, but he’s also not charismatic in any way I can register.
    When he’s on screen I find my attention wandering: I’m looking at the decor, I’m thinking about the editing, I’m wondering why the effects look so weightless despite the obscene amount of money spent on them (that last was, of course, about Transformers).
    I feel as though he’s one of many young actors who’ve had too much attention paid to them too early. Believe me, I have no illusions about the old American studio system. It was cruel, often capricious and it ground up people on both sides of the camera.
    But it also gave actors and filmmakers the chance to work constantly and refine their craft (I know that sounds pretentious, but I can’t think of a better term) before they were pinned in the spotlight.
    Now a single film can catapult a relatively inexperienced actor/writer/director into instant fame, and a lot of them can’t handle it. They stumble and are publicly castigated for it, they flame out, they retreat into mannerisms… it’s a shame, really.

    Tony Lovell
    I sort of agree, but Shia has been around since he was a kid. He supported his mum by doing stand up – as a child. I think he stands out in the right roles – he shone beyond the robots in Transformers, I felt – and I think he’s worth watching, keeping an eye on. In interviews i sense a desire to stretch himself, so if the blockbuster hold relaxes from round him maybe we’ll get to see that. I hope, anyway.

    Kim Newman
    Shia LaBeouf – a name which would have been changed to Rock Thrust or Rip Chord in the 1950s – has never been in a film which wouldn’t have been better if, say, Ben Foster had played his role. He’s hard to hate, but I’m with Maitland on how unmemorable he is. He couldn’t fill the Brando/Tom of Finland biker gear in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull without looking like a twelve-year-old rich kid en route to a fancy dress party.

    Anne Billson
    Ah, Ben Foster. He should be in everything. He’s a natural born scene-stealer. He was really scary in 30 Days of Night, and then those stupid vampires showed up and it all went downhill.

    Tony Lovell
    I have to admit to seeing LaBeouf in I Robot this week and thinking he seemed so ordinary, and in Constantine, too (in which I actually hated him). I think it might have been an interview with him that made me like him. Yes, he was so-so in Indy (but so was Ford to a point; he seemed like the Diagnosis: Murder guy, sort of soft and fuzzy, ‘mugging’ now and again. He almost didn’t feel like the hard-edged Indy I remembered.).
    30 Days was awful. Can we be unanimous on that one? Scenic, but cold in a way that had nothing to do with emotions or snow.

    Karen Krizanovich
    That’s Shia’s attraction – he’s ordinary. Although I did like him in Disturbia. He’s kind of a bay leaf among actors: he’s in there and he probably adds flavour but nobody can really tell what.

    Karen Krizanovich
    And Oldboy with Will Smith – I’ve heard worse ideas. Spielberg PRODUCING, I hope.

    Tony Lovell
    Thing is, with Will we tend to think of him as a joker, but really, recently, he’s proved himself excellent in a few things.
    Karen – that’s a lovely, spot on observation of Shia.

    Anne Billson
    I bet Will Smith doesn’t eat a live octopus.

    Tony Lovell
    I thought that. If he does it’ll be cgi. Thank god, too – I refuse to see Old Boy because of that scene.

    Karen Krizanovich
    Well… the octopus (three of them actually) was thanked by the director in Cannes for giving up its life for the film… and Smith, well, how METHOD is he?

    Anne Billson
    Hey Kim, looks like your film notes are turning into a virtual office water-cooler.

    Tony Lovell
    It’s great!
    Still – I don’t think critters should die for our fun. 🙁
    In fact, recently I read that in a Paul Naschy fiilms some rats were BURNED for a scene. The bastards (the makers, not the rats).

    Maitland McDonagh
    To continue Karen’s herbal motif, I think LaBeouf is the parsley — nice enough, but you wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there. Bay can hurt you if you take your eyes off it. Shia? Wouldn’t dream of it.

    Posted by kimnewman | February 18, 2022, 10:02 am

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