Shia LaBeouf is one of those actors for whom I harbor an irrational dislike. I find him to be quite annoying in movies (the only film he’s starred in that I even remotely enjoyed was Transformers), plus I think he’s ugly and whiny. And yeah, these are rather shallow assessments on my part, but it’s no worse than someone liking Zac Efron just because he’s “hot”.
Anyway, the thought of LaBeouf as an action hero is laughable — and yet his last three films, Transformers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Eagle Eye, were all popcorn flicks with lots of chase sequences, fights, and explosions. I held off on seeing Eagle Eye at the theater, but couldn’t resist renting it this past weekend. Not because of Shia, of course, but because I’d heard that the plot is so ridiculous that it would be good for lots of laughs. It was.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Jerry Shaw (played by LaBeouf) is just an average Joe whose string of part-time jobs has finally landed him at a place called Copy Cabana. He’s always short on cash and has to duck his landlord, but other than that, he seems like a normal guy.
Then one day he gets some terrible news: his twin brother Ethan, who worked for the Department of Defense, was killed in a traffic accident. After attending Ethan’s funeral, strange things start happening to Jerry — beginning with a mysterious deposit of $750,000 into his bank account. He returns home to find that a large cache of weapons and bomb-making materials have been planted in his home, and then he gets a call from a woman telling him that he has to obey orders from now on or risk arrest as a terrorist. Jerry starts running.
He’s picked up by FBI agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), but while he’s locked in the interrogation room, the unknown caller makes contact again and tells Jerry that he’ll be provided with an escape route. He takes it, eventually ending up in a car with Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), who is similarly being controlled by phone calls, under threat that her young son Sam (Cameron Boyce) will be harmed while away at band camp.
From there, Jerry and Rachel continue following instructions received via cell phone. Every time they try to disobey, they’re given an instant reminder of how powerful the unknown entity on the other end is, and they’re forced back into compliance.
As the plot unravels itself, we learn that a supercomputer named ARIA is making the phone calls and controlling the whole operation, with the objective being to assassinate the President and all those in the succession order. Jerry is needed in order to pass some biometric scans that will identify him as his twin Ethan, and Rachel is needed because Sam will play an unwitting yet critical role in the assassination attempt.
My Reaction: Well, what can I say? Eagle Eye was every bit as dumb and unrealistic as the plot summary makes it sound. A supercomputer was able to control all those people? Yeah, right. Because the computer felt that true democracy was being threatened by the executive branch of government? Whatever. I mean, this movie was simply an excuse for action sequences that were held together by the thinnest of plotlines. And while I do think that those types of films have their place — especially in the summer blockbuster season when this originally came out — Eagle Eye just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I think the film would have been a heck of a lot better if some terrorist organization had been orchestrating the whole assassination attempt. But to have it be a supercomputer was just incredibly stupid. Haven’t we already seen this kind of thing with HAL and I, Robot? It’s just not original. Sure, a terrorist organization wouldn’t have been original either, but at least then the filmmakers would have the opportunity to develop an individual villain or two with original characteristics. But a computer… just dumb.
I won’t even go into all the unrealistic things this computer could control, such as closed circuit security systems at the airport (when Jerry and Rachel had their briefcase scanned), but suffice it to say that it was beyond ridiculous. Having the computer be able to cause a specific power line to snap off and hit a moving target had to be the kicker. How can audiences eat this crap up?
Overall, I thought Eagle Eye was pretty bad all the way around. The plot was paper thin, the acting was god-awful, and the action sequences were banal. I give this film 1 star out of 5 and wish that Shia LaBeouf would just go away.