This review is going to be two parts, really no other way to do this. The first bit is going to be my general opinion, some plot and such while the next bit is going to be very spoiler-heavy. I will give a spoiler warning, but if you haven’t seen the film and want to, don’t read beyond said warning.
I’ve been wavering back and forth over whether I liked this film ever since I stepped out of the theater. On the one hand, I give the film credit for moving along and, for at least the first half, keeping you engaged in the mystery. At the same time, when the film turns, it turns south into a realm of suspended disbelief that, if you are not on board, you’ll likely find yourself chuckling at (I know I did, more than once).
“Eagle Eye” is a cyber-terrorism tale for the techno age. Copy Cabana (think Kinko’s) assistant Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) has just had the shittiest day of his life. He’s got practically no money, and he just got word that his ambitious identical twin, pride of the family and the Air Force, has died in a car accident. After the funeral, Jerry finds himself at an ATM staring at his bank account which, suddenly, has ballooned from no money to $750,000. On top of that, he returns home to find his apartment filled with ammonium nitrate, various military manuals and weapons and multiple foreign passports in his name. While ransacking his new apartment to inventory this questionable pile, he gets a phone call from a female voice informing him that the FBI will be busting in on him in 30 seconds, and that he needs to flee and follow directions. Of course, he does not, gets apprehended and things get… complicated.
Around the time of his incarceration, single mother Rachel Holloman (Monaghan) gets a phone call from the same female voice informing her that, if she wants her son, who has recently left on a train trip to Washington, D.C., to get to his destination safely, she must follow directions. She does so, and sits in a car parked around the corner.
Of course, now Jerry is being interrogated by Homeland Defense Agent Tom Morgan (Thornton) and, upon being granted his one phone call, finds himself the recipient of another message from ominous female voice, who now informs him he has less than ten seconds to drop to the floor… as a crane crashes through the side of the building and Jerry suddenly has a means to escape, and is eventually guided to a car waiting for him, to be driven by the unsuspecting Rachel.
As Jerry and Rachel meet-up, they find themselves both equally clueless and equally as f****d, as they must now escape the cops and FBI while also doing everything ominous female voice tells them to. And ominous female voice is issuing orders everywhere, be it cell phones, car navigation GPS, electric traffic signs…
Now, I didn’t just give away anything that the trailer for the film didn’t already show you, and on sheer adrenalin and confusion, the first half of the film, as Jerry and Rachel reluctantly follow orders while Agent Morgan and, eventually, Air Force Officer Perez (Dawson) try to unravel the mystery, is a lot of fun. Sure there’s a number of “yeah, right… like I’m supposed to believe that that’s possible” moments, but you let them go because you’re curious as to what’s going on. And then you find out.
About halfway through the film, we find out who has been issuing orders to Jerry and Rachel and, while we don’t know the full plan right away, we do find ourselves in convoluted cliche territory, and all the complications of the plot start to break down. Now instead of “wow, that’s amazing” we go into “now, why would they do that?” mode. It doesn’t help that ominous female voice appears to be all-powerful and all-seeing, so even when you figure out the obvious reason why she needs Jerry and Rachel, it still doesn’t explain why super-powerful puppetmaster doesn’t just finish the end game herself in any number of the ways she’s been causing havoc throughout the entire film. Vague enough? Yeah, sorry about that.
Plus, things start to get really cutesy and a bit too on-the-nose in the second half. All of a sudden it’s a Patriot Act lecture hidden in a thriller, and not a subtle one at that. In fact, so many moments hit the freedom nail on the hand so resoundingly obnoxious that, as I mentioned earlier, you can’t help but chuckle. I may’ve even thrown in an “come on, really” too.
In the end, the film isn’t a complete waste of your time, and it is a neat little walk down a Patriot Act assisted cyber-terrorist “what if…” scenario, but don’t expect anything brilliant. LaBeouf and Monaghan do a good job in keeping you interested in them at least, but Michael Chiklis, as the Defense Secretary, Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson are wasted in this endeavor (though Rosario does get the best “why the f**k didn’t anyone think about doing that earlier?” moment in the flick).
SPOILER WARNING!!! SPOILER WARNING!!! SPOILER WARNING!!! SPOILER WARNING!!!
If you read the above, you know my opinion on the film; so-so. Now we get to talk about the female voice’s identity and how that plays into turning this promising film from thriller to letdown.
The ominous female voice is just that, a voice given to a government supercomputer as part of the intelligence gathering Eagle Eye program. Tapped into every power and communications grid, automated systems from cranes to remote controlled military planes to traffic lights to cell phones are all under her thrall. And thanks to the Patriot Act, she thinks she has the authority, upon the belief that the Executive Branch of the government is doing more bad than good, to wipe out said Executive Branch and install a new ruling order.
First off, said evil cinematic supercomputer is, again, a flashing light of different colors, particularly red. Comparisons to every computer system from “2001’s” HAL to “The Terminator’s” SkyNet to the ship from “Flight of the Navigator” to AUTO from “WALL-E” are to be expected, and that’s what is so annoying: where’s the originality?
On top of that, while there is one very specific reason why the supercomputer, Aria, needs Jerry, it isn’t clear why she needs anyone to assist with her final plan. When you see Aria destroy powerlines to shock a man to death, explode gas canisters to attempt to kill people trying to shut her down or, near the end, commandeer military planes with lethal intent you just wonder why the plot had to be so complicated and cutesy? A computer wouldn’t do things for the irony, yet the final plan seems built specifically for the punchline to a dark joke.
I walked away from Aria’s omnipotence with the same distrust Capt. Kirk displayed in “Star Trek: The Final Frontier” (“What does God need with a starship?”). On top of that, the end plan is straight out of the ending to this Summer’s recent “Get Smart” flick. I understand that films sometimes repeat themes, but apparently Hollywood screenwriters can conceive of only one way to take out the U.S. Government nowadays, and that’s with charity concerts.
I don’t know what the answer here is, however. “Eagle Eye” builds so much mystery and thrills in the first half that revealing the mastermind was destined to always be a letdown of some sort. I guess I wouldn’t have minded the letdown if it hadn’t been packaged in such a derivative box.