Friday, September 26, 2008

Short Take: Eagle Eye (***)

Directed by D.J. Caruso

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Ethan Embry, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Azizi, Cameron Boyce, Lynn Cohen, Bill Smitrovich, Charles Carroll, William Sadler, Debra Strang, Dariush Kashani.

2008--118 min.

Rated PG-13 (violence, language)

Reviewed by The Teen Critic on September 26, 2008.

It's funny. The more I think about D.J. Caruso's highly uneven yet undeniably intense "Eagle Eye," the better it gets and yet the less it makes sense. The emotional content is forced, the plot twists utterly ridiculous, but the central plot is so frighteningly plausible and the two lead performances so effective that they make up for most of the movies faults.

Jerry Shaw is a 24-year-old "copy associate" at a Kinko's-like store name Copy Cabana, ho ho. He can't make rent. His twin brother has died. He's down on his luck, until a check from his parents turns into an ATM withdrawal of over $750,000, and he finds a cache of weapons, bombs, and ammonium nitrate in his apartment. He gets a call on his cell, answers it, and a woman tells him he has thirty seconds to leave the premises. Something similar happens to a single mom named Rachel Holliman, as her son's life is threatened.

Up until now, "Eagle Eye" has been an effective character piece crossed with an equally effective espionage thriller. Once the mysterious caller's identity is revealed, however, "Eagle Eye" turns into "I, Robot" meets "Enemy of the State," both films from which it steals liberally. The film still works, mind you, as the suspensefully ridiculous action scenes flash before your eyes with the pacing of an epileptic seizure.

The acting by the two leads is very good. Shia LaBeouf (2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull") is every bit as effective here as he was in "Disturbia," especially in the funeral scene. LaBeouf has mastered facial acting in every respect, and this is one of his best roles. Michelle Monaghan (2008's "Made of Honor") is equally good as Rachel, who is driven to do whatever she can to get her son back. On the other end of the spectrum, Billy Bob Thornton (2007's "Mr. Woodcock") gives one of the worst performances of the year as Agent Tom Morgan, showing zero emotion and forced to say unfortunate one-liners, all while looking incredibly bored.

"Eagle Eye" shouldn't work, but it kind of does. It's far from a great motion picture (sometimes the plot goes in places it shouldn't, such as when the mysterious caller phones Jerry from a stranger's cell phone and the caller I.D. says "Answer the Phone Jerry"), but it is a ridiculously enjoyable one. Just don't think about it afterward.

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