EAGLE EYE exploits paranoia about the invasion of personal privacy by technology with an entertaining action fantasy that pushes all the right buttons. It’s not when the hero, Jerry Shaw (Shia LeBeouf) is presented with his driver’s license, past-due bills, or even video of himself outplaying his pals at poker in the back room of the Copy Cabana where they all work. No, it’s when he’s shown a copy of his dental X-rays that things hit home. Public records are one thing. Security cameras are another. Medical records only a few keystrokes away from anyone with the hacking skills to get to them, though, crosses a line that should make everyone in the audience queasy.
It’s a timely premise and one that has been tacked nicely onto an action film. Jerry is the unwilling participant in that action, as is the lovely Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), but more about her later. Jerry was barely over mourning the death of his twin brother, and the uncomfortable reunion with his father at the funeral, when his previously empty bank account was suddenly overflowing with funds. Not unlike the way his tiny Chicago apartment was suddenly overflowing with things like guns and other assorted items in such quantities as to be sure to trigger some sort of attention from the authorities. And of course they do. Jerry, though, receives a warning phone call just before the FBI burst in. He fails to heed it, forcing the calm female voice on the other end of the line to intercept his one phone call from custody, warning him again, this time to duck, and then jump. That would be out of FBI headquarters. This time Jerry listens. Maybe it’s the way the electronic billboard across the street urges him to with its insistent “Jump Jerry Shaw!” message.
There are no explanations, just orders and once Jerry is on the run from the authorities, he has no choice about obeying. The ensuing chase, and calls to him on stranger’s phones from that same female voice, lead him to Rachel. She’s been getting strange calls, too, directing her to follow orders or her cute little kid, Sam (Cameron Boyce), the one on the train heading for Washington, D.C. to play a concert, gets offed. No explanations for her from that voice, either. There are several more chases, many more ingenious ways that the disembodied female voice contacts them, controls traffic lights, coerces strangers, and even kills a third party who doesn’t follow directions by using power lines to fry him. It’s all part of a nifty plot involving a crystal that explodes with a sonic detonator. Hot on their trail is FBI agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) who first took Jerry into custody and who has been ticked off since he got away. Working towards the same ends, though not necessarily on the same team, is an Air Force investigator (Rosario Dawson), and at the center of what set everything in motion is the Secretary of State (Michael Chiklis), who advised against taking out a high value target in the Middle East without a positive ID. The ruckus from that debacle is responsible for a surge in terrorist attacks against American targets throughout the world.
The script does a very good job of keeping the specifics of who is plotting and why under wraps, and when the reveal arrives, it builds on that to keep all the characters, as well as the audience, guessing for a bit longer. How all those wonderful electronic toys can be turned against their owners by someone with the determination and the access to do so in ways large and small does more than give one pause. The very plausibility, backed up with a genuine archival newscast, is breathtaking, and not in a good way. While the sequences are clever, a behind-the-scenes look at exactly how baggage gets whisked around at a major airport offers a variation on the usual airport chase, at two hours, things could have been trimmed to make for a tighter, more energetic flick.
LeBeouf, as always, brings an A game. As the innocent bystander dragged into a terrorist plot he does more than look scared. He has the rich nuance of the less-favored son who pretends to have given up while still secretly wanting to prove himself to the world. He also gets across Jerry’s basic decency, even while pulling a gun on people while under duress. He may be having a heated argument with Rachel about who the terrorist was who got them into this mess, his dead brother or Rachel herself, but when a truck drives at them out of nowhere, he instinctively puts himself between it and her, and you believe he would do just that.
EAGLE EYE may go over the top with it’s plot, but the facts of how closely we can be, and possibly are, monitored is all too real. The blend makes for a popcorn flick with a nasty edge that cuts just a little too close to home. but one that is as fascinating as it is fun.