‘Eye’ sore

Shia LaBeouf and director D.J. Caruso reworked Hitchock’s “Rear Window” for the teen set with adequate results in last year’s “Disturbia.” With “Eagle Eye,” the two return in an attempt streamline Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” for the text message set.

Call it “The CNVRS8SHN.”

On second thought, don’t call it at all. “Eagle Eye,” a project long-shelved by LaBeouf’s number-one cheerleader Steven Spielberg, has a kernel of an interesting idea rattling around in its hollow head, but it defaults back to the clamor and clatter of the worst of summer blockbusters.

With visuals that suggest the film was edited in a Jeep traveling at top speed on a cobblestone street, the film does not so much transition but spasms from one scene to the next.

The only reason I sat through the various chases is that I honestly did not know who was in what vehicle and was merely interested in who crawled out of the wreckages. That is very different from ‘caring’ who did.

LeBeouf (don’t ask me to pronounce his name, as I have trouble just spelling it correctly) stars as Jerry Shaw, a copy-center jockey who’s called home following the funeral of his twin brother killed while on duty in the military. If movies have taught us anything, it’s that having a twin rarely has pleasant, uncomplicated outcomes.

After the funeral, Jerry returns to his hovel to find it redecorated with the Martha Stewart Terrorist Collection, featuring the latest in weapons, explosives and fertilizer. The discovery is quickly followed by a phone call telling him he’s been “activated” and has mere seconds to elude an FBT arrest.

He’s led on what can only be described as a live-action RPG (role-playing game, for all you geezers out there), in which a faceless female voice directs his every move, while assisting him by manipulating everything from traffic lights to Circuit City Home Theater departments to aid his escape.

He accompanied by a yummy Mommy Rachel (played by Michelle Monaghan), who is equally befuddled as to her involvement in all this.

What “Eagle Eye” attempts is to create panic in a world in which our most prized possession – technology – is both our greatest friend and worst enemy. It delivers him the necessary information to elude the “bad guys,” but it also has compiled every instant message, spending habit, website visit and intersection crossing made in the course of our life.

But disembodied voices that inhabit closed-circuit McDonald’s televisions and automated parking garage fee signs do not evoke immediate fear from audiences (though Hamburgler can be one scary dude), so we have been given two flesh-and-blood antagonists to occasionally point their guns at our reluctant heroes. Rosario Dawson and Billy Bob Thorton as two Feds in hot pursuit, with Thorton taking on the role of the befuddled, beleaguered agent a la Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive.”

LeBeouf, meanwhile, does his LeBest, which is to say that he injects his usual fast-talking, everyguy style in the face of overwhelming (and downright improbable) odds. It’s the same card he’s pulled in his other big-budget starring roles in “Transformers” and this summer’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” He’s not without his charms, but it’s hard to notice talent amidst a cacophony of crashing metal and special effects. Monaghan, meanwhile, is reduced to nail-biting and fretting, which is really all she has time for when the camera remains steady for a nanosecond.

The Big Brother paranoia is one rife with thriller possibilities, but “Eagle Eye” opts not to exploit it for all its personal intrusions, but rather replaces it with and Red-Bull-fueled action sequences that numb the senses. It leads to a hacker’s fever dream conclusion that is staggeringly idiotic in both explanation and execution.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the kid-friendly paranoid technological thriller “War Games,” which, aside from its computer graphics, still manages to evoke some nerve-fraying fun. My guess is, in 2033, when “Eagle Eye” reaches the same age, it will hardly register a blip on the radar.

~ by usesoapfilm on September 30, 2008.

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