Director D.J. Caruso's last film, "Disturbia" (2007), was a suspenseful meditation on a teenage boy's connection to the outside world through technological media. He is now back with similar material, only on a more globalized scale and with a blast of adrenaline that lasts the full 117-minute running time. In an age when insecurities about the government monitoring our private activity is at an all-time high, Caruso's "Eagle Eye" takes hold of every paranoiac suspicion and spins them into a series of explosive, mind-numbing nightmare situations that would put Oliver Stone to shame. Indeed, the Orwellian implications of a contemporary Big Brother are taken to heights of such extreme preposterousness that the movie would almost qualify as satire were it not played with such straight-faced earnestness by star Shia LaBeouf and by Caruso himself.
While "Disturbia" afforded a voyeuristic LaBeouf the luxury of secretly keeping track of his neighbors' activity through his webcam and cell phone from the privacy of his bedroom, he now finds himself the observed as Jerry Shaw, the unwitting victim in a conspiracy plot that begins when he is wrongly taken in by the FBI for illegal possession of military weapons and documents. He immediately receives a phone call from an unknown woman who arranges his escape. Although Jerry has no idea who she is, she apparently knows everything about him and can see his every move, even communicating with him via strangers' cell phones and TV monitors. Single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) also becomes the target of the mysterious caller who threatens to derail a train carrying her young son if she does not comply. The two are eventually brought together, forced to follow instructions in an organized terrorist act or risk being killed.
If there is one thing to be said of "Eagle Eye," it is that it certainly moves. Going from one car chase/explosion/wild shootout to another, the film speeds ahead with breathless energy. The action scenes are mounted with such intense bravura that they easily compensate for the film's utter lack of believability. The movie's overriding argument is that in our pursuit of technological advancement, we have totally relinquished our privacy. With our personal information willfully spread about on Internet communities, security cameras at every corner, and the government's ability to listen to our phone conversations, it would stand to reason that we naively invite the invasion of privacy experienced by the characters in this film. That is basically true, but on a realistic level, it is not the stuff of a youth-oriented action movie. In order to allow for the heart-pounding action of a summer blockbuster, it is necessary for Caruso to turn it up a notch (or ten), and so he evokes the kind of paranoiac delirium that drove the great seriocomic thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), paired with an onslaught of visceral, high-octane violence. What results is a film built on the wild suspicions of a raving conspiracy theorist, depicting literally every person Jerry and Rachel come in contact with as either a suspect or a fellow victim. And then HAL-9000 shows up.
Based on an idea originally conceived as science fiction by Steven Spielberg (he served as executive producer), "Eagle Eye" draws from any number of classic film storylines, most notably the wrong-man themed films of Alfred Hitchcock. Indeed, the convoluted series of misadventures Jerry and Rachel find themselves in recall "North by Northwest" (1959) as they struggle to avoid being eliminated by the unseen enemy while simultaneously evading the authorities, represented by Billy Bob Thornton's FBI agent and Rosario Dawson's Air Force special agent. Thornton's presence especially brings to mind Hitchcock's winking eye (he is the only cast member who seems to get the comic undertones). Just as "Disturbia" borrowed heavily from "Rear Window" (1954), Caruso displays a propensity here for constantly tipping his hat to Hitchcock's work, to the point of virtually recreating the entire concert-hall climax of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956). What Caruso is unable to establish, however, is a personal style. His allusions to other films are often clever, but without a unique approach with which to contrast them, they ultimately seem more like shallow imitation than homage.
With the amount of action bombarded at the audience throughout, it is impossible to be bored by the film. If you leave logic out of the equation, it can be a cheesily entertaining experience for the first 90 minutes. At nearly two hours, though, the mindless action and never-ending thunderous score overstay their welcome. It could have been tightened by a good half hour, particularly in the largely overblown car chases, which actually detract from the sense of paranoia generated by the film's outrageous assumptions. This is nobody's idea of an intelligent political thriller (or satire), but it is an orgy for the senses.
Dreamworks Home Entertainment brings "Eagle Eye" to DVD in a 2-disc special edition. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer looks great with strong, solid colors, fine detail, rich black levels, and crisp sharpness. No digital artifacts were detected, and even with the number of dimly lit scenes and fast-moving camera movements, the image retains its clear quality. This is about as excellent as it gets for standard definition.
A 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track resounds with robust sound, clearly delivering every fine sound underneath the heavy explosions and accentuating the intense score and sound effects with strong bass. The action truly comes alive as the track delivers through all channels. Dialogue remains consistently clear. French and Spanish 5.1 Surround tracks are also included, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Special features are scant on Disc 1, consisting only of three deleted scenes collectively lasting about three-and-a-half minutes and a three-minute featurette, "Road Trip." This short extra offers next to no interesting information and is made up mainly of snippets from the longer featurettes included on Disc 2.
The first extra on Disc 2 is an alternate ending. It is predictable and gimmicky and was better off being cut from the final film.
Next is the 26-minute "Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye." Filled with talking head interviews with cast and crew and a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage, this offers a nice look at the production.
"Eagle Eye on Location: Washing, D.C." is a six-minute look at the scenes shot at Washington locations, including the Library of Congress. A Library guide is interviewed, imparting basically the same information you would hear on a scheduled tour.
Next is the nine-minute "Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me?" with the cast and crew discussing their own paranoia about the government watching us through our phone and online activity.
"Shall We Play a Game?" is the most curious extra, a nine-minute conversation between D.J. Caruso and director John Badham. The two worked together on Badham's superior "WarGames" (1983), and they spend the short time discussing the similarities between the two films.
The features are rounded out by a seven-minute gag reel, a photo gallery, and a theatrical trailer. All of the supplements are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
While "Eagle Eye" is fine as a time-passer, it fails to explore the admittedly justified suspicions that it arouses with any seriousness. D.J. Caruso delivers a competent thriller, substituting explosions and outrageous notions for personal style and thoughtful storytelling. Dreamworks' 2-disc DVD set will probably satisfy fans of the film, but the movie hardly warrants the special edition treatment.