Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
An exciting but profoundly dumb technological thriller, D.J. Caruso´s Eagle Eye tests the limits of just how dumb a film can be and still get away with it. And it very nearly does get away with it: the director keeps everything moving at such a breakneck pace that we rarely have a moment to reconsider past events after the plot specifics are revealed, or even, for that matter, fully comprehend what is currently happening on the screen. There´s a level of craft at work here that I can appreciate, but also an unforgivable level of incompetence that ultimately wins out.
In 2007, Caruso paired with star Shia Labeouf for Disturbia, a teenage ripoff of Hitchcock´s Rear Window. Just a year later and both director and star have (seemingly) matured with Eagle Eye, which is less of a Hitchcock ripoff, and more of a cyber-terror version of North by Northwest. Labeouf stars as Jerry West, a chop shop clerk who returns from the funeral of his twin brother to find $750,000 in his bank account and a cadre of weapons in his apartment. He´s quickly seized by the FBI, but not before he gets a phone call from a mysterious female voice (who isn´t credited in the cast, though she sounds so familiar – Julianne Moore, or maybe Diane Lane) that tells him to go on the run. Meanwhile, single mother Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) gets a similar phone call from the same woman, who tells her that if she doesn´t comply, the train her son is on will be derailed. Soon Rachel and Jerry are on the lam together, forced to comply in some vague terrorist plot that isn´t fully revealed until the end of the film. On their trail are FBI agents played by Billy Bob Thornton and Ethan Embry, while Air Force official Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson) investigates the circumstances of the death of Jerry´s twin brother.
The movie effectively strings us along for an hour or so; we don´t know what´s going on, but everything is fast-paced and suspenseful enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. We´re wondering who the bad guys are, waiting for that big reveal when everything clicks into place and, maybe, just maybe, it will pay off in spectacular fashion.
The big reveal comes in at the end of the second act, and while it´s a mighty interesting one (and one of the best things about the movie), everything doesn´t click. Armed with the knowledge of who the terrorists are, everything falls apart, as nothing that happened in the first two acts makes sense, and nothing that happens in the third will either. This is an omnipotent enemy that strikes down a man in the middle of the desert with electrical cables, but crafts a needlessly, ridiculously complex plan that relies solely on these two strangers completing a variety of unnecessary tasks. There´s a scene at the end when the enemy needs to kill Jerry, but instead of doing it by themselves they try to force Rachel into it, even though they just killed someone in the same exact spot not five minutes prior. I´m being vague to try and avoid spoiling the major plot point, but you get the picture. The level of stupidity here is insulting.
Mostly because Caruso has crafted a film that takes place in the real world and want you to think. This isn´t escapist entertainment like Journey to the Center of the Earth, where you can turn your mind off and not worry about the logic. No, we have to use our minds to confront Eagle Eye, and the more we do so, the worse it gets.
Labeouf was no James Stewart in Disturbia, and he´s certainly no Cary Grant here, but he´s capable enough and even likable at times. The rest of the cast, including costar Monaghan, is effective though no one stands out. William Sadler, who has a few lines as Jerry´s father, is wasted in an underdeveloped subplot.
Eagle Eye is a shade below similar films Enemy of the State and Live Free or Die Hard; while neither of those were bastions of intellect, they didn´t seem this dumb. Caruso is a competent director and has turned this awful script into a better film than it has any right to be, but there are some glaring flaws, like an early chase scene that is so confusingly shot in close-ups, that I had no idea who was chasing who or who had crashed into what when they cut to a wide shot.
Still, there are plenty of worse ways to spend two hours.
You might expect a film called Disaster Movie to be a parody of disaster movies, but you´d be wrong. It´s safer not to expect anything here, safer still not to see the film, which has currently occupies the #1 position on IMDb´s “Bottom 100”. Is it the worst movie ever made? Probably not, but it must be close. It comes from directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who wrote Scary Movie and directed Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet the Spartans. What a lineup! I think Epic Movie was the worst, but do I have to choose? It´s like walking down the street and picking out the worst piece of dogshit, and while I do often do this, the standards I use are not in compliance with any governing body, and my time could, perhaps, be used in other ventures, like writing spoof movies (which reminds me: I have an idea for a movie, it´s called Parody Movie, and it´s a parody of parody movies like Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Disaster Movie. Interested parties, please contact me through this website.)
Back in the day, you had your spoof movies like Airplane!, which spoofed the Airport movies from the previous decade, and The Naked Gun, which spoofed 1960s police procedurals. Now you have Disaster Movie, a film with such a short-term memory that not only doesn´t it spoof anything more than 6-months old, it doesn´t even spoof disaster movies, hoping you´ve forgotten the name of the movie shortly after entering the cinema. It seems to take the plot from Cloverfield, some people in an apartment, an attack on the city; but then after ten minutes the filmmakers seem to have decided that Cloverfield has been long forgotten, drop everything and proceed to barrage us with an endless barrage of references from movies, TV, commercials, etc., from the summer of 2008. Even stuff that no one has seen, like The Love Guru. And references, not jokes, ‘cause when they bring out a guy in a shoddy panda suit, you´d have no idea this was supposed to be Kung Fu Panda unless they have a character announce it to you directly, and by the time they say, “hey look, it´s Kung Fu Panda!” there´s no time left for comedy. Rinse and repeat with Batman, Iron Man, The Hulk, Speed Racer, Indiana Jones, Amy Winehouse, etc., ad nauseam.
Disaster Movie is awful and proud of it, and not nearly as entertaining as you expect a bad movie to be. And it contains one of the worst performances I´ve ever witnessed, from Crista Flanagan, who tries to spoof Ellen Page´s performance in Juno by amping up the apathy level and failing on every conceivable level and many inconceivable ones too. I would feel less embarrassed for the actress if I was watching animal porn.
I wonder who the intended audience for this piece of work is. With a barrage of references that rarely break the 3-month-old mark (the Cloverfield plotline, which harkens all the way back to the beginning of this year, seems to be pushing it), anyone that has formed a memory past a year or two seems to be out of the target demographic. Newborns may not mind the film, though they may be offended by all the fetus violence. Amnesiacs, perhaps, with no memory prior to May, 2008, might enjoy the movie. Or those locked in a dungeon from birth, like the main character in Werner Herzog´s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, released into the world just in time to catch You Don´t Mess with the Zohan and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
But then, at the end of the film, there´s an interminable song that runs through every last stale reference that the film has made, as if we didn´t just sit through this goddamn thing. It´s a headache on top of the headache that was the rest of the movie; the only people who won´t find it vomit-inducing are those who have just walked into the film, five minutes before it´s over. That can´t be the target audience, can it? What was the point of the rest of the film? No, I imagine the movie was made for those unfortunate souls with both amnesia and short-term memory loss; like the guy in Memento, only without any memory prior to the accident either. As an added bonus, this audience will have no memory of the film by the time it´s over. More fortunate than I.