Eagle Eye

Director    DJ Caruso
Starring    Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis
Release    26 SEP (US) 17 OCT (UK)    Certificate 12A
4 stars


22nd October 2008

When not counting his money or banging on about Indiana Jones and Tintin, Steven Spielberg enjoys nothing more than updating the classics. Last year, he produced Disturbia aka Rear Window for chavs. Now, undeterred by the impending lawsuits, he's dusted off his old copy of North By Northwest, re-teamed with Disturbia helmer D.J. Caruso and pulled the same trick, only with more mobiles phones and paranoia.

After the death of his twin brother, Jerry (LaBeouf), a Stamford drop-out turned part-time gambler discovers over $700,000 in his bank account and enough weapons to wage a small war in his grotty little apartment. Soon enough, the Feds arrive and arrest him on suspicion of terrorism, but this is when he receives a mysterious phone call from a female voice who seems to know his every move.

Bust out of custody in the most elaborate of ways, Jerry is thrown together with equally bemused single mum Rachel (Monaghan) and the pair are forced to comply with dangerous instructions or face the consequences. With the mysterious caller having the power to change traffic lights or make a total stranger's phone ring for you, Billy Bob Thornton's keen FBI agent has a pretty tricky task keeping up.

A good way to sum up Eagle Eye is to say it's a little like The Happening, only replace naughty weather with naughty technology (and a better script). Like M Night Shyamalan's eco-misfire, there are some meaningful messages tucked away somewhere. But instead or slapping them around the face of the audience, resulting in the director bathing in his own self-importance, Caruso represses those deeper issues in favour of a serious serving of Bourne-style, non-stop action. There's barely a moment when someone isn't being chased or things aren't exploding. It's a good job too, as we get little in the way of character development, apart from a little about Jerry's deceased brother and Rachel's young trumpet-toting son. BOOM! Who cares?

LaBeouf, now with facial fluff that could almost qualify as a beard, is satisfactory as the lead and shows he's just as good at running away from real people as he is from a parade of angry Decepticons. He's beginning to build on his leading-man credentials and proves he's got what it takes to hold the attention, whether he's sharing a screen with Harrison Ford, Transformers or Billy Bob Thornton. BBT, complete with an impressive set of ostentatious pearly whites, is a highlight here as the authority-wielding Fed. What could have been just another uninspired cop role becomes a far more satisfying character in the vein of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, especially when he comes out with gems like, "Get back to work or I swear you're all demoted to something that involves touching shit with your hands!"

Despite the outlandish and ridiculously over-the-top storyline and the half-arsed sub-plots involving Rosario Dawson's Air Force Investigator and Michael Chiklis' Defence Secretary, Caruso succeeds in keeping Eagle Eye grounded in something resembling reality. What could have been a sci-fi movie twenty years ago now resonates in these technology-dependent times - even the most cynical viewers will be suspicious of that CCTV camera following them on the walk home. Complete with a couple of nods to the inspired source material -notably a small plane causing unnecessary amounts of grief - Spielberg and Caruso are doing quite a good job of rummaging around in Hitchcock's box of tricks. If only Big Brother was as entertaining and explosion-filled as this.

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