Friday, October 31, 2008

Movie Review:Eagle Eye

If there is anything we have learned from movies like Terminator, I Robot, and so forth, it is that computers designed to make people happy will ultimately turn on the people and attempt to conquer/kill/make slaves of them.

If there is anything we have learned from movies such as Enemy of the State, The Handmaids' Tale, or 1984 it is that governments with access to surveillance technology will mis-use and abuse those powers.

If there is anything we have learned from a century of Hollywood it is that the industry is derivative.

Hence we have Eagle Eye (2008), the convergence of Terminator, I Robot, Enemy of the State, and 1984.

The movie starts by following Jerry Damon Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), a shiftless slacker who scams his co-workers out of small stakes at poker, hasn't seen his brother in a couple years, and refuses to accept money from his apparently well-off family even though he is behind on rent and overdrawn at the bank.

We also meet Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), a struggling single mother sending off her son Sam (Cameron Boyce) to Washington DC on a band tour.

Together the two of them are manipulated into a series of set-piece action bits that are highly entertaining. At one point, in a field in the middle of nowhere, falling electrical powerlines create the danger in a scene eerily reminiscent of the famous crop-duster scene in North by Northwest. Oddly, one thing never resolved is how a computer could force those power lines to snap and fall...but if you are going to investigate plot holes, this movie is the wrong one for you.

Instead, it is a glitzy, fast-paced, adrenaline packed thrill fest with a mild shock as to who the villain is and why Jerry and Damon are the victims.

Meanwhile, they are being chased by Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), a sharp minded yet ineffectual pursuer who is always one step behind. In the big finale he provides the opportunity and motivation for Jerry to make the last-second save to keep the entire command structure of the U.S. from being killed using a rather clever bomb designed to combine Sam's trombone with a diamond necklace worn by Rachel.

The movie is entertaining and will leave you smiling. Sure, it takes the bounds of reality and believability and stretches them like Homer Simpson's all-you-can-eat pants...but that is beside the point. It is designed to critique the Patriot Act and over the top government surveillance while providing an entertaining action flick. It delivers on that premise in spades.

The acting is very well done, particularly by Billy Bob Thornton. He tends to take some quirky roles in off-beat movies...Bad Santa, Sling Blade, Bandits...and yet he can deliver in a serious role such as this one. LaBeouf is generally entertaining if somewhat one-note in his delivery and Monaghan, despite some cheesy lines, delivered on what she had to work with.

With the exception of the first chase scene the photography was excellent. In fact, my biggest quibble with the movie was the use of many jump cuts to create tension rather than showing what was going on. I thought that section was very poorly edited. They made up for it later with some spectacular shots so all is forgiven.

If you are a fan of the Action genre, take a look, you will like this movie.

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