Eagle Eye

Eagle Eye


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

As a vehicular convoy approaches a village in Afghanistan, America is watching with an eagle eye.

Concealed troops on the ground, remote-controlled spy drones in the air and satellites in space are all sending back footage to a military control room in the Pentagon. The imperfect images add up to a possible picture: a wanted Islamic terrorist is emerging from hiding to bring a crateful of weapons to the local mujahideen. Against the advice of Defense Secretary Callister (Michael Chiklis), the decision (going all the way up to the President) is taken to send in the bombers. The instant before the entire village is blown to smithereens, it becomes clear (too late) that the crate is in fact a coffin and the congregation is not a conspiracy but a funeral. It is just another case of 'collateral damage' caused by the US in its fields of war abroad.

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It is all too easy, in assessing the dumb-assed shenanigans that follow in D.J. Caruso's Eagle Eye, to forget this opening sequence – yet to do that is to ignore the film's moral core, and the firm grounding of its genre-bound fantasy in far grimmer contemporary realities. Eagle Eye might take the technophobia of The Net (1995) and Enemy Of The State (1998), throw in the political paranoia of Arlington Road (1999) and The Manchurian Candidate remake (2004), borrow a few SF tricks from The Matrix (1999), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and even War Games (1983), and wrap it all up in a double-edged chase-caper scenario familiar from The Fugitive (1993) – with Billy Bob Thornton in the Tommy Lee Jones rôle - but at heart this film is concerned with the Bush administration's questionable shift away from traditional constitutionality in the conduct of its War on Terror, whether it be in its increased dependence on intrusive surveillance or its cavalier attitude towards the lives of foreign civilians. Too bad, then, that all this is buried beneath such a furiously daft (and ultimately spineless) assemblage of B-grade plotting.

Rebellious underachiever Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) and devoted single mother Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) find themselves drawn together with a few other strangers to execute a terrible crime by an unseen (but seemingly all-seeing) woman whose preferred media are cellphones, computers and other electronic goods, and whose weapons of choice are manipulation, coercion and blackmail – not that she hesitates, when necessary, to use the odd fully-armed, remote-controlled jet as well.

Both made suspects in a massive cyberterrorist attack that they are indeed aiding and abetting (albeit against their will), Jerry and Rachel are relentlessly pursued cross-country by Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), even as they themselves try to get to the bottom of who - or what – is so methodically engineering these events – not to mention why. It might all have something to do with the recent death of Ethan Shaw, a military high-flyer, in a freak accident, but Jerry cannot countenance the notion that his identical twin brother could ever have been a traitor to his country. In any case, all the answers lie in a supposedly non-existent basement floor of the Pentagon, where Air Force investigator Zoe Perez Rosario Dawson) is about to look straight into the eye of America's newest big power player...

Caruso races Eagle Eye breathlessly from one dumb set-piece to the next, hoping that through sheer pace alone the idiocy of the plot can somehow be overlooked. Like some old-school Bond villain, the film's master manipulator repeatedly exposes a key figure in the conspiracy to unnecessary danger instead of keeping him out of harm's way, takes the longest and most convoluted route possible to reach goals that might more easily have been attained with an armed jet or two, and exhibits the sort of disregard for collateral damage that was the whole point of contention in the first place. Worst of all is the ending - sickeningly good-natured in a way that seems to traduce everything that has preceded, and bizarrely content to return things to a status quo that the opening sequence had eloquently illustrated to be oh so very wrong.

Rarely has a film been so serious in its underlying implications and intent, and yet so moronic in its execution. Still, perhaps that is the whole point. This is democracy in action, as dumbed-down and blinkered as America's post-9/11 politics, where bitter realities are reduced to multi-media feel-good bits and bites. If by the closing scenes we have forgotten the President's morally questionable misadventures at the beginning and are just glad to see him back on the job, we are only getting what we (by which I mean the US citizenry) voted for.

Reviewed on: 14 Oct 2008
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Two innocent people find themselves framed in a bizarre military conspiracy.
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Director: D.J. Caruso

Writer: John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hilary Sentz, Dan McDermott, from a story by Dan McDermott

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Ethan Embry, Anthony Azizi, Cameron Boyce

Year: 2008

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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