United States, 2008
Directed By: D.J. Caruso
Written By: Dan McDermott, John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hillary Seitz
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Ethan Embry
Running Time: 118 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language
We should have total freedom to do as we like, just so long as it’s not dull. A critic who talks to me about plausibility is a dull fellow. – Alfred Hitchcock, on the artistic freedom of filmmakers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve never worried much about the plausibility, or rather implausibility, of a given movie. Enforcing an outside reality on a piece of insular entertainment seems to be on par with showing up at an all-you-can-eat buffet with a calorie counter in hand. Watching your waistline certainly is an admirable goal, you’ve just come to the wrong place to do it. Director D. J. Caruso seemingly shares this viewpoint. Thus far in his career he has gravitated towards stories that allow him to throw the physics and expectations of the real world out the door, in the service of making an entertaining flick.
With Eagle Eye, Caruso lets us know from the moment he introduces hero Jerry Shaw (Shia LeBeouf) that even though he pays lip service to (and cribs liberally from) the great canon of 70’s thrillers such as The French Connection and The Parallax View that we’re here for a “thrill ride”. None of those pesky character arcs here, ladies and gentlemen! Arms and hands inside the car, no flash photography please. How do we know that Jerry is our hero-to-be? Just watch the way that this put-upon copy clerk plays quad aces. Any wannabe rounder would be jealous of that kind of calm. To be fair, I doubt that anyone pops in this DVD looking for insight or introspection. We’re on the boardwalk buying tickets to the Tilt-A-Whirl, and unlike the questionable quality of carny construction, what we have here is a thrill ride made with great care that moves along fairly briskly. The action set-pieces are fun, flashy and fairly realistic looking, which in this day and age is deserves some credit.
Unfortunately, the film nearly grinds to a halt when Jerry isn’t running to or from something. Co-stars Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson are given little to do except yell incredibly silly things. (Honestly, pay special attention to the next-to-last scene, in which a character is forced to state the theme of the movie in a soundbite so stilted it belongs in a circus.) To misuse such a varied and interesting troupe is a shame really — I’m sure that I’ve seen almost every member of this cast in action movies that were both smart and exciting. I won’t expose my personal prejudices here by stating which films those are, but I’m sure the avid researcher could learn a lot about this writer by sussing out the correct flicks.
At least as enjoyable as the film itself, though, was an interesting extra contained on the second DVD of the set, entitled “Shall We Play A Game?” Director Caruso chats with one of his mentors, John Badham, the director of War Games (a personal favorite). As an aspiring filmmaker myself (yes, I’m one of those), I always enjoy seeing the enthusiasm of creative types. Caruso clearly enjoys his work and doesn’t take it too seriously, which is a good quality to have when you make silly action movies, now that I think about it.
While not as unexpectedly enjoyable as the last Caruso/LaBeouf paring (the underrated Disturbia), Eagle Eye is more than watchable in a lazy-evening-with-the-family sort of way.