Saturday, 15 June 2024

Preposterous action runs amok in silly 'Eagle Eye'

EAGLE EYE (Rated PG-13)


For positive proof that the fertile mind of Steven Spielberg does not always yield fantastic results, look no further than the cinematic disaster that is the quasi-technological thriller “Eagle Eye.”


Maybe the famed jet-setting director of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was spending too much time in London, where surveillance cameras on street corners are more omnipresent than the growing number of unwelcome “red light” traffic cameras popping up around our country. A palpable sense of being watched too carefully may have gripped Spielberg with some sort of dread. But acting as executive producer, at least he turned the concept into a ridiculous popcorn movie.


The thought of us becoming afraid of our cell phones after watching “Eagle Eye” was Spielberg’s intended effect as much as he made us scared of going into the ocean after seeing “Jaws.” Regrettably, “Eagle Eye” is total lacking this psychological fear factor, because the central premise of this high-octane action farce is that a massive surveillance system run from the bowels of the Pentagon is capable of controlling every phone, TV, camera, traffic signal, aircraft and construction crane in the world. I probably overlooked a few other things, but hopefully you get the idea that “Eagle Eye” is basically science fiction not even remotely fixed in current reality.


Shia LaBeouf’s Jerry Shaw, a slacker working at a Chicago copy store, is suddenly called home for the funeral of his identical twin brother, an Air Force officer killed in an auto accident. Returning to his grubby apartment, Jerry finds $750,000 in his bank account and enough weapons and bomb-making equipment to associate him with a terrorist cell. A disembodied voice on a cell phone warns him to run or be arrested, and before he can flee, he’s taken into custody by the FBI and interrogated by Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton). Since this movie is an Alfred Hitchcock-type, falsely-accused-man-on-the-run story, Jerry ends up being freed by a swinging construction crane crashing through the window of his holding room.


Meanwhile, single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is sending her 8-year-old son, Sam, off on a train from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to play trumpet with his school band at the Kennedy Center. During a rare night out with her pals, Rachel receives an odd call on her cell phone from the same female voice, in which she’s instructed to follow orders or her son will die. The threat is made credible because the caller produces images of Sam on a wall of TV screens across the street.


Next thing you know, Jerry finds himself sitting in a Porsche next to Rachel, and the two of them are literally off to a competitive race with unseen forces to carry out a series of missions that will implicate them ever more deeply into serious terrorist acts.


Spinning wildly out of control, the plot becomes so unnecessarily complicated and convoluted that the notion of the mysterious caller orchestrating a series of suspicious moves is increasingly laughable. The strangely disembodied voice is able to track their every move, and has seemingly limitless control over their fates. Rational thought makes you wonder how any of this is remotely possible.


On a subway train, Jerry gets a call on the cell phone of a sleeping passenger sitting in close proximity. Later on, you marvel at the ability of two novices like Jerry and Rachel managing a holdup of armed guards transporting a briefcase under tight security.


If you’re a cinema buff, you might pass the time by counting the inevitable Hitchcock inspirations. All that is missing is a crop duster chasing Jerry and Rachel through a cornfield. But while the great master of suspense played on one’s fears with mental tricks, the director of “Eagle Eye,” D.J. Caruso (who had better results with “Disturbia”), seems to be auditioning for Jerry Bruckheimer’s next monster action picture. After all, Caruso works at a fever pitch to produce a nearly unstoppable run of chases, car crashes and explosions that leave a long trail of victims.


If anything, “Eagle Eye” is a slick production that may lull the most gullible into believing that it is a worthy entertainment. Don’t be fooled by this preposterous joke. The only saving grace to this film is the welcome presence of Billy Bob Thornton, amusing as a grizzled veteran unwilling to take crap from anyone.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


Vintage TV series are increasingly being released on DVD, often with a few bonus features tossed in for good measure.


“My Three Sons: Season One, Volume One” is a classic sitcom starring Fred MacMurray as Steve Douglas, an engineer and widower who must deal with the trials and tribulations of raising his three sons – Mike, Robbie and Chip – with the help of their maternal grandfather “Bub” (William Frawley).


Guest stars during the show’s first season included Dick Van Dyke and Desi Arnaz Jr. Airing over 12 seasons, “My Three Sons” is a beloved iconic series.


Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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