Saturday 7 August 2010

Movie Review: Eagle Eye (2008)

Largely forgettable and uninspired, Eagle Eye in a techno-thriller that reaches for the left-overs deep in the fridge and rehashes a story previously told better at least four times in films such as Failsafe (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Wargames (1983) and The Terminator series.

There is an attempt to update the story of the big computer turning on its makers for the era of global terrorism. In Eagle Eye, the super-secret, super-computer ARIIA being developed by the Department of Defence, gets totally pissed because its recommendation against a strike on a group of terrorists is over-ruled, resulting in the loss of American life.

This is enough for ARIIA to set-off the most convoluted plot ever to topple the current Administration. The computer recruits two seemingly innocent and clueless citizens, Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), taking control of their lives, throwing them together and using them to trigger regime change in the United States. The evil plot reaches absurd levels of complexity when it draws in Rachel's young son and his school band, as well as highly secret explosives that need to be hidden in brass instruments.

As so often happens when five screenwriters are credited, the weaknesses in the foundation of Eagle Eye are blatant, and can best be summarized in a few questions: given everything that ARIIA is seen to be capable of in the film, which seems to include controlling every single civilian and military electric, computer, digital and information network in the world, would it not have been easier to, say, knock Air Force One out of the sky? Launch a missile or two at the White House? We are asked to believe that ARIIA needs Jerry to unlock some system that prevented ARIIA from going rogue: actually, ARIIA is shown to be capable of mass mayhem on a grand and national scale, without any of Jerry's help, thank you very much.

And as another question, did the genius egg-heads who created ARIIA never watch any of these other movies about computers going bad? Did they not think to include, say, an "off" switch that was out of the computer's control?

In the absence of basic intelligence, the best that Eagle Eye can come up with is trying to hide its plot for a good two thirds of the movie. For a long time we are not told how and why the lives of Jerry and Rachel have been taken over, and we're just asked to sit back and enjoy the admittedly slick sequence of events that drives them to a rendezvous with the President's State of the Union address.

LaBeouf and Monaghan do their best, but mainly they just need to act confused and irritated with each other. Billy Bob Thornton, as an FBI Agent trying to figure out what Jerry is up to, seems to think he's remaking The Fugitive. Director D.J. Caruso does provide a nice polish to the movie, so at least all the nonsense looks good.

Eagle Eye is the equivalent of a locked-up computer: time to hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

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