When it comes to trashy thrillers, there aren’t many of the quality of D.J. Caruso’s Eagle Eye. It’s just a shame that so much of it isn’t watchable.
Honestly, it continues to amaze me (and many other film lovers) that directors and editors choose to release work that is primarily an aural experience. Why waste the (estimated) $105mil producing a screen experience that would be just as easily followed with only an audio track? Typical for modern films of this nature, the action scenes are filled with shaky handheld cinematography and rapid cuts that mean there often isn’t a single well-framed shot in the whole sequence (and if there is it lasts about a nanosecond before being replaced by one that isn’t). The usual arguments about building tension and audience immersion just won’t wash.
Barely in frame for much of the film are its two leads – Shia LaBeouf as the unambitious Jerry Shaw and Michelle Monaghan as single mum Rachel Holloman. When Jerry finds $751,000 in his bank account and then gets home to discover weapons and bomb-making materials throughout his apartment, you just know he is being set up for something big. Rachel has different problems with an anonymous caller threatening her son and blackmailing her to steal a car. Their paths will intersect as their lives are controlled by the mysterious woman on the phone and they discover they are part of a major conspiracy that will threaten the national security of the United States.
Both LaBeouf and Monaghan are excellent as the bewildered but determined Jerry and Rachel, and they are supported by a stellar cast including Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson who both shine in fairly archetypal roles. Thornton is especially well suited to his grizzled but highly motivated Homeland Security agent Thomas Morgan. Julianne Moore’s voice carries just the right tones of control and menace as the disembodied conductor of events.
Caruso manipulates story threads into a finale that invokes a strong sense of tension, and in this regard Eagle Eye is one of the better thrillers in recent years. His characters come together in believable ways, and their responses to the decisions they face – one or two slightly illogical moments aside – are completely understandable; something that can’t be said for many less competent productions.
Were it not for the fact that the action sequences are visually unintelligible, Eagle Eye may well have rated very highly indeed for its smart approach and strong performances. It cannot be strongly recommended, however, as a result of the incredibly silly choices made in pre- and post-production that consign the film to handheld hell.Rating: