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In Association with
Eagle Eye (2008)
Director: D.J. Caruso

review by Mike Philbin
This was written by John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hillary Seitz, and Dan McDermott. Wow, that's a lot of writers. Well, not necessarily; many Hollywood films have teams of writers and/ or teams of re-writers. And then there's the scientific/ dialogue polishers and other bespoke re-drafters - that's the corporate moviemaking machine at work, creativity by consensus. Was it 16th century pub-singer William Shakespeare who crooned, 'Do many monkey-hands make lightweight work'?

And on the face of it, Eagle Eye lives down to its blockbuster expectation of being a lightweight work, full of big explosions and a central car chase that took six months to film (no joke). That's entertainment, right? That's what we have come to expect from our Hollywood blockbuster movies, big explosions and miles and miles of annihilating car chase; that's our audio-visual Atkins, as consumers. That's all the cerebral sustenance we need, and deserve.

Shia LaBeouf plays twins. Not at the same time, either. He plays goatee-sporting drop-out twin Jerry Shaw struggling to earn a living at The Copy Shop, struggling to pay his rent, struggling to come to terms with the death of his twin brother, Ethan Shaw, the goatee-free dead war hero. Or so we are led to believe through the first reel. Michelle Monaghan plays single mother Rachel Holloman, whose young son is departing Chicago with his youth band to play in front of the President of the United States in a Washington D.C. recital.

There's the Islamic-sounding metal-case-carrier. There's a mysterious jeweller. There's an FBI guy played by Billy Bob Thornton. But what's the connection between all the odd-shaped pieces of this intriguing narrative jigsaw? And what's it all got to do with the assassination of some reclusive terror suspect in Afghanistan?

Someone has set up Jerry Shaw. An ATM spews out $700,000. Boxes of hi-tech equipment and weapons have been delivered to his rented room. While opening these boxes, Jerry receives a call. A woman, telling him to leave within 30 seconds or the FBI's gonna get him. He doesn't believe her and the FBI get him. But not for long, time and again, the mystery woman seems to have the electronic world at her perfectly manicured fingertips, helping Jerry escape and driving him towards his meeting with Rachel.

Rachel's also had phone calls from the same woman, showing her CCTV footage of her son on a train which she threatens to derail unless Rachel complies with her demands. Rachel meets Jerry and on it goes. But where is it going, and why should we care. Well, this film's not at all what it seems.

There's intrigue and subterfuge at every turn and, finally, we come face to face with the real protagonist and start to understand the unfolding narrative's triple-arc. One is reminded of the 1983 film classic WarGames (where the tic-tac-toe playing computer W.A.P.R. averts 'global thermonuclear war' by never playing it), and, of course, the mission saboteur HAL in 2001. Again, there's an insane computer on the loose called ARIA and it's intent on killing those who would overthrow our government. The complex schemes and machinations of how ARIA does this are the well-greased ball-bearings along which the narrative skids along, a deliciously friction-free formula.

I'll use my usual whipping-horse, the horror genre, to try to explain why you and your family shouldn't be entertained by this over-clever film, it does too much of what you're expecting without getting to the bottom of why you should really be questioning your life, post credits. It offers an easy way out, a sinister computer gone awry as protagonist. But who's the real enemy here? Let's begin by looking at the independent production company (and director) behind Eagle Eye, namely Dreamworks.

Dreamworks SKG was founded by three greats in the business, namely Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. The business revolves around the production of motion pictures be it live-action or animation, or television programmes. Initially, the new production company had tie-ups with major studios such as Paramount Viacom and Disney Company, but major decisions were made to make the company an independent film producer.

What really prompted that decision to not tie-up with the majors? Remember, Spielberg is the guy who made Minority Report and Schindler's List. Unfortunately Geffen was photographed on a boat over at Rothschild's mansion with our (standing) Prime Minister Lord Mandelson this summer. I wish I knew what all these behind-the-scenes political games actually meant. Is this how politics is? Not as digital, not as cut and dry as ARIA? Playing both sides off against each other? Shades of grey?

That's this film's real crime - that it shows a defined enemy, names a name - which is strange for an impersonal film about global profiling and in a world suffocating under the pillow of corporate surveillance, as it shows the real weakness in the system isn't the real-time architecture of the control grid but the manipulation of the masses to do one's bidding. It's a film about blackmail, and those familiar with the recent Sibel Edmonds (Turkish lobby) 9/11 whistleblower case will understand what a powerful tool of corruption blackmail is. But it's mainly about the tenacity of real love. I know, trite and typically Hollywood. But it works; that's why this 'could have been awful' film gets a generous score. Le Boeuf is charming in his own boyish way. Monaghan is convincingly tough. Thornton is heroic in his delivery. Digital integration is a seamless jump from state to state. ARIA, well she's the lovable femme fatale who just doesn't realise she's doing wrong, so wrong.

DVD extras: interviews with the stars, trailer, the usual stuff.

Eagle Eye

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