D.J. Caruso’s Eagle Eye is what you might imagine would happen when somebody watches a Tony Scott movie, followed immediately by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and thinks, “I could make those movies! In fact, I could combine them into one movie!” Of course, the real issue is that they never stopped to ask whether or not they should.
After the moderate hit which was Disturbia (2007), Eagle Eye brings the duo the world was yawning for, Caruso and Shia LaBeouf, back together again. LaBeouf plays angst-ridden underachiever Jerry Shaw, who moonlights in a copy shop, spending his time off dodging his elderly landlady’s pleas for rent and playing poker in the store’s break room. After his more talented twin brother—who works for the Air Force—dies in a car wreck, Jerry mysteriously finds $750,000 in his checking account and his apartment filled with assault rifles and ingredients for explosives. He then receives a phone call from a stranger—no, not a recorded message from John McCain’s presidential campaign, but rather a droll and uncredited Julianne Moore telling him he has 30 seconds to flee the premises before the FBI shows up. How anyone is supposed to get down two flights of stairs and out of view in that amount of time is beyond me. Needless to say, Jerry is quickly raided by the Feds and put into custody. While this is happening, a struggling single mother named Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) receives a phone call from the same person telling her that she’s been “recruited.” She must drive an SUV to a certain location, or else the train to D.C. her son is on will be derailed. Shortly thereafter, Jerry escapes from custody with the help of a phone call by the ever-persistent mysterious voice, and is told he is to ride along with Rachel. The two soon find themselves wanted fugitives, with a hard-nosed FBI agent (Billy Bob Thornton), who speaks in clunky homilies, hot on their trail.
The movie at this point becomes a series of set pieces, following the pattern of Jerry and Rachel getting a phone call and being told to head towards some sort of product placement. (For instance, they’re told to pick up a Visa gift card, and later told to head to the home-entertainment section of Circuit City. Unfortunately, neither of these acts involves buying a DVD player so that maybe the audience would get to watch a better movie.) Each time, these commands end in some far-fetched, garbled car chase, explosion or gun fight, all in the name of figuring out what, exactly, is going on, and how it ties into Jerry’s deceased twin and the never fully explained assassination of a suspected terrorist that opens the film. It just goes to show that Michael Bay unfortunately does have an influence on modern cinema, no matter how grotesque a concept that might be.
The problem, however, is that the path to unraveling the movie’s mystery isn’t all that interesting, and when the big twist as to who’s behind everything comes to light, the movie just turns goofy and preposterous. In order to steer away from the realm of spoilers, I’ll avoid saying what the film’s big secret is. But I will say that it’s pretty easy to sniff out early on, and becomes even goofier when seen on screen.
Caruso and his whopping four screenwriters attempt to play on the public’s fears and paranoia surrounding privacy invasion, technology and terrorism. However, in the end, there’s no point to any of it. It might have helped had any of the characters had any depth or motivation, especially since LaBeouf’s screen presence is still too smug to elicit any real sympathy by itself.
While not actively terrible, Eagle Eye is incredibly inconsequential and aggressively mediocre, coming across as half-baked summer leftovers instead of the grand event it thinks it is—or at least wants you to mistake it for. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language.