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Eagle Eye (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) comes to his apartment to find all sorts of boxes he didn’t order. His phone rings and a voice tells him the FBI is on the way and he must get out immediately. He doesn’t believe the caller; the FBI comes and he’s in big trouble.

Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) gets a call after a night out with friends and a voice tells her that her son will die if she fails to follow instructions. She doesn’t believe until she’s told to look across the street at a TV monitor where she sees a real time picture of her son on a train.

Sounds goofy, but as the film progresses, it becomes more and more believable. Jerry and Rachel get together, courtesy of the voice, and their problem is to follow the instructions but somehow get out of the horrible mess in which they find themselves.

Inspired by producer Stephen Speilberg, while this is a thinly veiled attack on The Patriot Act, it is still a high-tension thriller, regardless of your political belief, reminiscent of (if not homages to) “2001” (1968), “Colossus: The Forbin Project” (1970), and even "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956).

Director D.J. Caruso is no stranger to thrillers or to Shia LaBeouf, for that matter, having directed “Disturbia,” the better-than-“Rear Window” thriller last year. There are four writing credits, Dan McDermott who developed the story, John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, and Hillary Seitz. When there are so many screenwriting credits, it generally spells big trouble. Compound that with my experience when I checked in to the screening. They offered me a press kit, which I already had, so I asked if there was a list of cast & crew, which makes it a lot easier to write a review. They told me that they have them sometimes, but they didn’t feel the extra added expense of having a third party draw up a list of cast and crew was justified. Well, they had to do it for the closing credits, so that didn’t make much sense to me. How good is this film, I wondered, if they didn’t even want to spend the money to run off a list of cast & crew?

If anybody at Dreamworks/Paramount actually watched a cut of this film and thought it didn’t justify printing up cast & crew, they need some new blood. This is a compelling thriller, extremely well directed by Caruso. There are several car chases with some spectacular crashes. In the recent past, this type of thing has been done with CGI, and the audience knows it. Here, Caruso eschewed CGI. “I wanted the action to be real, because I’m a connoisseur of the old ‘70s car chases, with just plain real action,” he says. “When cars crash and things blow up, I like it when it really happens and you can photograph it. I wanted to stay away from digital technology as much as I could.”

But better than that, this is just good, old-fashioned filmmaking with two likeable protagonists up against a monolithic antangonist. There is just constant tension and action, helped immensely by Brian Tyler’s music and Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography. This is a film that would be hard to put over if the music didn’t add to the tension.

Like most good thrillers, this starts out with two ordinary people who suddenly find themselves in terrible danger and they don’t know why or how or what to do. The action starts immediately and increases geometrically until the end.

September 25, 2008