- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

“Disturbia,” the latest suspense thriller from director D.J. Caruso (“The Salton Sea”), draws the audience into its currents swiftly, gently building speed before eventually leaving viewers to gasp on the other side of its finale’s ripping rapids. En route, it delivers ample amounts of humor, intrigue, old-fashioned chills that are often exposed by newfangled technologies, and an especially adept performance by its young star, Shia LaBeouf.

While not without eddies, the film for the most part flows naturally from the outset just like the trout stream that Kale (Mr. LaBeouf) and his pop (Matt Craven) are fishing in when the film opens.

“You think he sees us?” the son asks his father of an appealing specimen lurking in the waters.

“Trust me, he can feel us watching,” he replies, stealthily introducing the voyeuristic theme that will come to dominate the movie.

Moments later, the duo are on their way home to mom when a fierce collision takes dad’s life. Kale slips in his studies following the tragedy, causing a sharp-tongued Spanish teacher to provoke him. The student clocks him one and ends up under house arrest for three months.

Initially, his life of home confinement is a pleasure cruise of cable TV and XBOX Live. Seeking to teach him a lesson, however, his mom (“The Matrix’s” Carrie-Ann Moss) cuts the cords and forces him to discover alternative entertainment — like what’s happening right outside his windows.

Taking special clues from the “Rear” one (wink, wink), Kale takes to spying: on hot new neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer), on the miscreant children down the street and on creepy Mr. Turner (David Morse), who not only matches the news channel’s description of a recent serial killer, but also has some odd hobbies and an awfully sinister air about him.

Together with his buddy Ronnie (the effervescent Aaron Yoo), Kale utilizes the command center that is now his bedroom to both woo the desirable young woman and keep tabs on the “person of interest.” Soon, Ashley’s in on the operation, too (although the strained and hackneyed love interest between her and Kale is one of the plot’s weaker parts).

Scenes of Mr. Turner’s suspicious activities come through Kale’s eyes, his cell phone, his video camera and his computer, enhancing the movie’s frenetic feel. It’s difficult for even the audience to tell exactly what’s happening — and we’re supposed to be the omniscient ones.

With tension mounting steadily inside the confined space of the teenager’s bedroom, the effect when he finally breaks out is like letting a slingshot go; he and the plot fly with enough force to bowl someone over. It helps, of course, that Mr. LaBeouf (possessing Zach Braff’s wit and timing and Justin Timberlake’s boyish charms) gives a magnetic performance.

After the lights come on, questions may linger: Why, for example, didn’t Kale get counseling after his father’s death? But “Disturbia’s” rushing torrent has washed most of them away.

***

TITLE: “Disturbia”

RATING: PG-13 (for some violent scenes and sensuality)

CREDITS: Directed by D.J. Caruso. Written by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth.

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

WEB SITE: www.disturbia.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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