Shia like an ‘Eagle’

Eagle Eye
Director: D.J. Caruso
Screenwriter: D.J. Caruso
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Azizi, Billy Bob Thornton
Release Date: 2008-10-01
Studio: Paramount
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Film

Just so we’re clear: The kid’s name is pronounced “Shy-uh,” and he’s for real.

Not to distract, right off the bat, from the other factors that make Eagle Eye a skillfully wrought and very entertaining film (and not that saying “not to” before something negates the fact that you’re going right on ahead and doing it), but I periodically get the notion that there’s some confusion floating about relative to at least one of those points (pronunciation and potential, that is), and I just wanted to lay it down at the outset. Seriously. Young fella’s here to stay. And, judging by the observable range (in an action flick, no less!) and maturity he displays in Eagle Eye, that’s a very good thing.

Here, LaBeouf is Jerry Shaw, a 20-something relative underachiever whose barely there existence is pitched a hefty share of turmoil, first by a personal tragedy, next by a series of increasingly bizarre and often wildly destructive events, the latter punctuated by mysterious telephone calls from an anonymous, seemingly omniscient source, flush with disturbingly specific instructions detailing: 1) split-second escape maneuvers which help him remain breathing and avoid capture by sundry authorities, and 2) successive steps in an unbearably cryptic mission/master plan that hurtles headlong toward an unseen and seemingly inevitable end. (Got it? Think that one scene in The Matrix, in which they call and tell Neo how to get out of the office and away from Hugo Weaving & co., then extend and expand, ad Fugitivum.) Along the way, Jerry meets Rachel (Monaghan, of Gone Baby Gone, et al.), a doting single mom and fellow call recipient, spurred to obedience by threats of harm to her son. The two form a frazzled, carnage-ducking, law-skirting partnership born of necessity and desperation.

Eagle Eye works, and works very well, in much the same way as director Caruso’s last Shia-centric outing, Disturbia. Both are unrepentant mass-appeal nail-gnawers, but successfully find their anchors in characters about whom the viewer, refreshingly, could give a steamer about. The writing is tight, even sharply funny in parts — surprising for a picture with so many screenwriters on the payroll. Caruso once again delivers a stylish, inky, moody-looking picture, which fits the story, and the often inventive action-thriller set pieces are big, fun, and well-handled. An enormous part of the film’s appeal, though, is due to the remarkable actors that inhabit it: LaBeouf and Monaghan carry things off very, very well, doing the hard work of sustaining humanity and authenticity at the heart of a slam-bang actioner, and Thornton, of course, is every bit the twinkle-eyed hoot he always is, his hounding FBI agent all-but-begging for a spinoff one-shot with Tommy Lee Jones’s stuff-of-legends Ford-chasing federal marshal. (Shoot, I’d pay just to watch those two have a beer together.) But it’s the inclusion of the categorically brilliant (and, seemingly, endlessly versatile) William Sadler and the soon-to-be-a-household-name-if-there’s-justice Anthony Mackie that made Eagle Eye a top-to-bottom winner for me. •

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