Saturday, September 27, 2008

Movies: Eagle Eye

Early in the day on Friday, I had commented to someone that while sometimes I’m surprised to find I enjoy a movie more than I expected to (Ghost Town is a recent example), I rarely enjoy it less than I expected to because I’m good at identifying movies that will hit my buttons. A few hours later, I went to see Eagle Eye and was forced to eat my words.

The first act absolutely met my expectations. Despite the post-Indy backlash, I’m still a fan of Shia LaBoeuf, though I occasionally have trouble buying him as an action film star, especially when they shoot him from upwards angles that accentuate the more hobbity features of his face. And I love Michelle Monaghan. She was good in Boston Public and great in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and she’s the only reason I’ll even consider renting Made of Honor. She’s gorgeous in a way that’s somehow less cookie cutter than a lot of other Hollywood actresses, and she’s really good at conveying a mix of toughness and vulnerability. If Hollywood directors are smart, they’ll keep casting her in high-profile roles.

The action in the first third is fantastic, too. Julianne Moore as the mysterious voice on the phone is pitch-perfect, portraying a fantastic mix of creepy and cocksure. The plot moves along at a white-knuckle clip, with plenty of mystery and verve. And then the identity of the string-puller is revealed and it all starts to fall apart.

AICN’s Massawyrm thinks that the twist is a game-changer that invigorates the whole movie from that point on, but I disagree. The twist itself is okay, nothing we haven’t seen before but certainly thought-provoking. But the reveal should have been saved for much, much later in the movie, because it sucked the air right out of the action and led to some water-treading and needlessly complicated machinations in acts 2 and 3. The reveal could have happened in the middle of act 3 and had the same impact and made the same statement without diluting act 2.

Still, the script is tight, for the most part. There are a few weak moments. One happens right before the scene that’s been in all the trailers, where Jerry and Rachel first meet in the car and have the “Are you the one who called me?”/“She called you, too?” conversation, where they get into what can only be described as a hilarious sissy slapfight. It's supposed to be a tense moment that was ruined by my laugher because really - sissy slapfight. The other is the final image of the film, where they opted to end with a sweet, Lifetime moment rather than taking the opportunity to drive home the Big brother Is Watching thesis in a fun way that befits the film that preceeded it.

While the film didn’t exceed, or even meet, my (admittedly high) expectations, it was still highly enjoyable. Shia and Michelle make a good team, and even the deflated second act has good tension in it. The story makes some interesting comments on technology and foreign relations, although the preaching does somewhat impede the enjoyment of the film. Still, I’d say Eagle Eye is worth catching in the theatre. It's a tense, well-acted, high-octane thriller with more brainfood than is usually found in the genre. Now I just hope the next movie I’m highly anticipating, Quarantine, meets my high expectations.


Sex Mahoney for President said...

What's not to like about Shia LeBouf? The kid's got charm. I've been a big fan of his ever since that lousy Project Greenlight movie.

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

I think he's definitely underrated as an actor, but weird celeb antics like getting arrested in a Walgreen's, almost flipping an SUV while drunk, and making Indiana Jones ride bitch does a lot to burn off any good will he might accrue being charming in movies.