- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

“Eagle Eye” is a totally derivative, unoriginal techno-thriller, cribbing scenes and ideas from films as diverse as “North by Northwest,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “War Games.” But it’s also thoroughly entertaining, with a fun cast and a plot that moves quickly from crisis to crisis, action scene to action scene.

In other words, it’s perfect summertime fare. Please ignore the date (we’ve officially entered fall, after all) and strap in for the ride.

The movie kicks off deep within the Pentagon. It seems that a high-value terrorist target might be on the move, and Secretary of Defense Callister (Michael Chiklis) has been called in to pull the trigger. With just a 51 percent likelihood of an identity match — determined from video/voice info culled from cell phones and satellite imagery — Callister (and the computer running the command center) suggest terminating the mission. The president pushes ahead, however, firing on what might be a funeral and sparking international backlash.

The action shifts to Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), a clever but unmotivated slacker who dropped out of Stanford. After the death of his overachieving twin brother, Jerry comes home to find his bank account full of cash and his apartment full of explosives. A mysterious woman calls Jerry and tells him to run, that the FBI (embodied by Billy Bob Thornton’s agent Morgan) is hot on his trail.

Meanwhile, the same mysterious woman is simultaneously on the phone with Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), informing her that if she doesn’t do exactly what she’s told, her young son will die. The voice is always a step ahead, viewing events in real time through cell phones, closed-circuit televisions and anything else connected to the Internet.

This is the latest in a long strain of films worried about technology wreaking havoc with our lives. Remember the silly mid-‘90s identify-theft thriller “The Net” and the silly early-‘80s Matthew Broderick picture “War Games”? Combine the two, and you get the silly late-‘00’s Shia LaBeouf picture “Eagle Eye.”

“Eagle Eye” is far flashier than either of its intellectual forerunners, and it has a far better cast: Mr. Thornton should be used in every big-budget film that calls for a sarcastic federal agent, and Rosario Dawson turns in a fine performance as his liaison with the Air Force’s investigative branch.

The film’s leads also are quite good. Mr. LaBeouf continues his run as the premier “normal guy” action hero, while Miss Monaghan does solid work as his co-conspirator. Both do a good job of grounding a silly, unrealistic picture in a little bit of normalcy.

D.J. Caruso’s direction is sure and steady, with one notable exception: A car chase near the beginning of the film could have been fantastic; high-speed inner-city driving, flipping police cars and automated cranes plucking vehicles off the street midchase make for great shots.

It’s too bad, then, that you can’t see what’s going on. The action cuts in and out so quickly and the camera’s movements are so insanely shaky that it’s nearly impossible to see what’s happening. The hand-held camera has its place, but it’s a privilege, not a right. Mr. Caruso should learn not to abuse it quite so much.

★★½

TITLE: “Eagle Eye”

CREDITS: Directed by D.J. Caruso

RATING: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language.

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

WEB SITE: www.eagleeyemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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