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Eagle Eye

September 11, 2012

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Because the German poster is far, far better than the American one

Note: This is a trial piece I felt like writing during disc troubles. Futurama will not be sidelined, but, as with the Bill Oakley interview, I will sometimes post other things if I feel like it. Naturally, this contains substantial spoilers about the film Eagle Eye, but as that is four years old and you probably don’t care anyway, whatever.

Eagle Eye (2008). I didn’t hate this film. It is by-the-numbers, preposterous action schlock with a tacked on subtext about rights and liberties and the dangers of fighting terrorism. It’s not a good movie, but the kind that you’d watch at 1:00 AM on TV after a hard day of realizing your life is insignificant. You watch and think, ‘hey it could be worse, I could be the characters in this movie!’

I missed the first 20 minutes, but Wikipedia tells me they weren’t really vital to understanding it. The government try to kill a terrorist. Their high-tech computer tells them the intelligence is wrong and the Defense Secretary (Michael Chilkis) tells the President to abort the drone strike, but he ignores the advice. Sure enough, the strike kills civilians instead, encouraging the actual terrorists to launch a series of suicide bomb attacks in America. Meanwhile Jerry Shaw’s (Shia LaBeouf) identical twin brother (you can see where this is going) is killed in a mysterious car accident. Jerry goes home to find his apartment has been turned into that of America’s Dumbest Terrorist and a mysterious female caller (Julianne Moore) tells him he is about to be arrested by the FBI. He doesn’t believe her, is arrested by Billy Bob Thornton, but escapes after she engineers him a route out. He meets Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) who is being blackmailed by the caller (threatening to kill her son) to help Jerry. The unlikely pair (The Bourne Identity anyone?) must work together to… whatever.

What follows is a series of increasingly nonsensical action and chase scenes as Jerry and Rachel are guided away from Bill Bob Thornton and into the Pentagon. It’s the standard bulletproof hero cliché. They get a few scratches I guess, but in real life they would have got fucking killed, even with a magic robot lady guiding them. I would have died of shock. They do actually make a point of saying that the characters are not suddenly action heroes (she can’t drive very well, neither is an expert with a firearm) which is nice. Other than that they are the usual movie experts at falling from large heights and surviving explosions.

None of the main actors are especially bad, but the script never really bothers fleshing the characters out in any way that allows them to give meaningful performances. The leads are the only ones who get any form of background or development, but are still largely bland. She is a single mother with a deadbeat ex-husband. He is a screw-up, with no direction in life, mourning his more successful but loving brother. As the lead, Shia LaBeouf is competent, but nothing more. He’s not a bad actor, but I’ve always felt he is a lot better suited for comedy roles (see Even Stevens, I, Robot). Monaghan has little to do other than worry for her son and be scared and pissed. Oh and a brief, random and totally unnecessary guilt-trip about being a bad mother because she was working and dared to take one night off rather than seeing her son play his trumpet.

The heart of the film – after all the chasing – is a conspiracy plot. It turns out the caller is actually the computer, ARIIA, that warned against the drone strike (shock) which explains why it was able to control everything to guide them to the Pentagon alive. ARIIA is Skynet, Vicky and above all GLaDOS all rolled into one. Her appearance and voice is almost grounds for a lawsuit from Valve. ARIIA was created for national defence and has concluded that – as the President ignored her advice about the strike, resulting in the suicide bombings – that regime change is the only solution to uphold the common defence. This is what happens when you programme a computer with documents like the Constitution and Patriot Act – it notices all the contradictions. She plans to kill the entire chain of command other than the Defense Secretary, by blowing up the State of the Union. Okay. Seems like an overreaction. She needs Jerry because his dead brother was a government agent, who bio-locked her controls after discovering her plot. So only his identical twin can unlock her… why couldn’t he have bio-locked her to prevent her from doing anything? You know, like stopping her from hijacking a Reaper drone?

Yes in easily the film’s dumbest set-piece, ARIIA sends a drone down a freeway to kill Jerry and Billy Bob Thornton, who now understand the plot and are heading to the Capitol to save the day. And save the day they do, although this is only due to ARIIA’s particularly convoluted and protracted method of killing everybody. Why couldn’t she just seal the Capitol and release some gas? Or fire a missile at it? Or kill them all individually? Hell if what the President did is enough to justify murdering him why doesn’t she just release the evidence of whatever he did and have him impeached? She apparently has control of every computer-related thing in America so none of this would be very hard. There has got to be an easier way for an evil super computer to get the Defense Secretary into the White House. Instead she comes up with some bafflingly pointless scheme involving some sonic trumpet activated super gem bomb thing. Whatever. Oh and Rachel’s kid is going to be playing this trumpet. I guess national security requires ARIIA to kill a bunch of innocent school kids as well.  But yeah, Bill Bob dies, but Jerry saves the day by walking into the Capitol building during the State of the Union and firing a gun into the air. Couldn’t he have just yelled “Stop, there’s a bomb”? But it’s okay because it works, and, just like real life, the Secret Service agents decide that the safest thing to do is not to immediately shoot this crazy man who just ran into the State of the Union address firing a gun into the air, in the head. They shoot him in the shoulder. Oh and some other characters (Rosario Dawson and Anthony Mackie) shut ARIIA down by smashing it, I guess. Why didn’t anyone else think of that? The ending is the weakest part of the film. Jerry should have died. I thought he was dead. They did the close-up of him closing his eyes with the sombre music like he was dead. But he wasn’t dead. This is fine in something like Hot Fuzz, but in the context of this film it really doesn’t work.

But this is all over analysing. This isn’t that kind of movie. It’s the standard, glossy action-conspiracy fare with a few half-hearted themes, which rushes from set piece to set piece barely pausing to develop any characters. It’s packed with explosions, product placement (“They’re in a black Porsche Cayenne/A black Porsche Cayenne?/Yes a black Porsche Cayenne!”), shot-reverse-shot, close-ups, manic editing and so forth. It does what it’s supposed to do – keep you moderately entertained throughout – and does it competently. That’s probably the word I’d use to describe this: competent. It’s not a good movie but it didn’t overtly offend me with its stupidity while I was watching. I wasn’t really super bored at any point, and I didn’t want to kill myself. So I guess that’s a plus. This movie doesn’t deserve to be remembered, but at the same time I guess it’s not worse than being stabbed through the eye with a rusty fish slice.

And it doesn’t follow all the clichés. The main characters do not have sex during the film. Unless they did it in the scene where they were locked in a crate, which is possible.

2/5

Directed by D. J. Caruso; Written by John Glenn & Travis Adam Wright, Dan McDermott, Hilary Seitz; Produced by Steven Spielberg, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Pat Crowley and Ed McDonnell

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 25, 2012 7:19 am

    You’re an excellent writer, so anything you write will be read by me. I kinda wanted to see this movie because I heard about it right after watching all of THE SHIELD (truly one of the best non-HBO television dramas ever, up there with some of the AMC heavyweights and kinda underrated, honestly…). But you know, Shia LeBoof (?) is maybe the only actor currently working whose sole participation is enough to make me not want to even bother watching the film. I know that’s incredibly close-minded of me, but I just hate watching the guy and especially to try to accept him being taken seriously. I kinda hope it’s like a Leonard DiCaprio thing, where he annoyed me at first until I looked at, you know, THIS BOY’S LIFE and DON’S PLUM (…) and GILBERT GRAPE and so on and realized he’s actually a pretty good actor (if usually a bit one-note, but it’s a note that works). But honestly? I’ve seen a good portion of Shia’s output and I just can’t stand the guy. Just can’t fucking STAND HIM.

    …it doesn’t sound like I missed much here either way. I appreciate the writeup.

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