Eagle Eye Review
Big brother is watching you! At least that’s what Hollywood has been reminding us for decades now, in that last 15 years that message has been getting increasingly technologically inclined, and we’ve been bedazzled by the technophobic likes of The Net and Enemy of the State. Now rising director D.J. Caruso is coming at us with Eagle Eye, which pits a man and a woman against an all-seeing all-knowing mystery hacker.
Jerry Shaw is an ordinary joe working in a low pay, no prospect job and living in a crummy apartment that he’s barely able to afford. After attending the funeral of his twin brother Ethan, who was an exceptionally gifted Air Force lieutenant; Jerry returns home to discover his apartment is crammed with mail order weaponry, and a phonecall informs him that the FBI are currently en route to arrest him. Ignoring the instructions from the caller, Jerry is swiftly apprehended but later broken out of FBI headquarters by the phonecaller, who seems able to take control of any machine in Jerry’s vicinity. Now Jerry finds himself wanted by the government and at the mercy of the mystery caller.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city single mother Rachel Holloman finds herself the recipient of a phonecall from the same mystery caller, who tells her to follow orders or the train her son is travelling in on his way to play for his school’s orchestra will be derailed. After a demonstration of the caller’s capabilities, Rachel has no choice but to comply, and eventually she and Jerry are brought together and commanded to pick up various objects from various people who also seem to be at the mercy of the phonecaller. Hot on their trail is the very detemined FBI agent: Thomas Morgan and Air Force investigator: Zoe Perez, who is trying to piece together the circumstances behind Ethan Shaw’s death and how it ties into Jerry’s current predicament.
I must admit I have a bit of a soft spot for Shia LaBeouf and D.J Caruso’s last collaboration: Disturbia. Sure it was just a second-rate teen reworking of the Rear Window formula, but I find LaBeouf quite effective at playing socially alienated youths who are placed into situations that involve extreme peril, and Disturbia played to his strengths quite well. In Eagle Eye his role seems equally tailor made for him, but the truth is pretty much anyone could play the role of Jerry Shaw for all the screentime granted into characterising him. That’s because Eagle Eye is one of those post-24 action thrillers that assumes its audience has the attention span of a ADHD inflicted gnat, and just trundles along from one perilous scenario to the other whilst treating the moments in between the action; when characters unveil their personalities and are forced to make real human decisions, like an extremely hurried parent having to wait for their child to take a toilet break.
This approach has good and bad consequences, the good is that the aggressive pace ensures that Eagle Eye is never dull, and will hold your attention pretty firmly for almost two hours. The bad is that there is an emotional vacuum at the core of the film where real three-dimensional characters have to weigh up the consequences of their actions. There are little moments when it seems Jerry and Rachel actually contemplate the ramifications of fulfilling the phonecallers demands, but they are swiftly glossed over in favour of producing another loud moment of carnage.
Jerry is the average boy who grew up living in the shadow of a far more intelligent and motivated identical twin, and Rachel is the girl who has been let down by the men in her life and will do anything to protect her child. That’s pretty much it as far as the protagonists go, they’re well played by Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan, who both convey the desperation and terror of being manipulated by a seemingly omniscient puppet master, but they always play second fiddle to the showcasing of how much of the technology that surrounds us can be used to cage us in. The supporting roles don’t fare much better either; Rosario Dawson is lumped into a rather bland role as the Air Force investigator and Michael Chiklis, as the Secretary of Defense, plays the most boring of creatures: an honest politician. Only Billy Bob Thornton makes much of an impression playing the hard-headed FBI agent chasing after Jerry Shaw, with his character’s acid tongue bringing some much needed human wit into the film.
Eagle eye works pretty effectively as an action spectacle, Caruso has a good eye for fast motion set pieces and revels in creating ways exciting and unpredictable ways for Rachel and Jerry to evade the law. The way the phonecaller maintains contact and gets its orders across to the two puppets also involves some rather deft touches in highlighting how much information is being thrown at us by our environment. The problem is that, despite being so desperate to demonstrate how much of our lives is being controlled by hackable, manipulable technology, Eagle Eye unravels a plot that becomes more and more ludicrous with each reveal of how this is being done, until the film has moved so deeply into science-fiction territory that it ultimately fails as any kind of social critique.
Which leads to one conclusion: Eagle eye is a reasonably slick action thriller, but it’s centred around fairly uninvolving characters and a plot that doesn’t have enough depth or subtlety to make any truly salient points. In other words, an atypical contemporary Hollywood action film!
PresentationThis 1080p transfer presents the film in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and it should be noted up front that Eagle Eye is a very dark film which, if isn’t set in a dark and gloomy cityscape, it’s moving around from dark room to dark room. There are plenty of daylight scenes, but it’s clear that Caruso was going for a very stark appearance, natural lighting and blooming fluorescent, which is probably a result of using high exposure. So bearing this in mind I was pretty pleased by the brightness and contrast levels, which definitely bring out Caruso’s intentions quite accurately. Black levels are excellent and shadow detail is a little low, but that is to be expected. Eagle eye was shot on super-35 film, so you have a reasonably thick layer of fuzzy grain throughout, although some scenes to exhibit slightly lighter more sharply defined, but once again this transfer definitely gets across the intended look of the film. Detail levels are high with fine details showing through the grain quite nicely, super-35 films should not look ultra-sharp so don’t expect reference level sharpness and it’s pleasing to see no signs of DNR being employed. There’s some noticeable ringing in one or two scenes, nothing too bad but it’s enough to just stop this transfer attaining a score of 9/10.
Colours are very pleasing, the daytime scenes look vibrant and at night the glow of the city creates rich colourful hues that are vividly expressed by the transfer. Skintones look very natural, most of the film is shot with either a blue filter or a more golden-brown look that can darken skintones here and there, but it all looks pretty accurate to my eyes. The AVC encode has an average bitrate of 29.62Mbps and the compression is excellent, I can’t say I noticed any digital artefacts.
The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack certainly packs a punch; bass is tight and forceful, and the dynamics are pretty good. Dialogue is crisp and clean but the levels of the soundmix can be a little overbearing during action, which tends to make dialogue seem a little quieter than it should, just make sure you use your amp’s nighttime mode if watching this film late at night. The soundstage is wide and both front and rear speakers are given a solid workout.
Other audio tracks present are: French DD5.1, German DD5.1, Italian DD5.1, and Spanish DD5.1
Optional English subtitles are included, as are subtitles in Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and English for the Hearing Impaired.
ExtrasThere’s just over an hour’s worth of extra features on this disc, it might not seem a lot for such a recent film, but what’s here is definitely worth checking out.
Deleted Scenes (04min:39secs): There are 4 scenes included here, all of which have raw audio tracks that haven’t gone through any processing, so at times you can hear the crew in the background. Only two scenes are particularly noteworthy, the first is an extension to the coach scene where Jerry reveals a little more about his inferiority complex, and the second is an alternate ending (which is actually more like an extension of the final one) that suggests Aria wasn’t thwarted after all.
Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye (25m:32s): This is quite a good making of feature that covers pretty much all you need to know about the film’s shoot. There’s some great footage of car carnage in here.
Eagle eye on Location: Washington, D.C. (05m:58s): As the title would suggest, this features takes us through all the great locations used in the Washington D.C. section of the film. Some of the locations are stunning and you don’t really get much of a feel for them in the hustle and bustle of the finished film, so it’s nice to have the time to really take them in here.
Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me? (09m:14s): Starts off with the cast and crew talking about the techno-voyeur theme of the film, with everyone talking like Eagle Eye is the first film to highlight the issue of today’s CCTV society. After a couple of minutes the experts chime in and the feature picks up, but this topic really needs a longer discussion to offer any true insight.
Shall We Play a Game? (09m:22s): This is a sit-down discussion between D.J. Caruso and John Badham, director of War Games. The two filmmakers discuss the themes of Eagle Eye and the influences on Caruso when making the film, as well as the technical aspects of production of both Eagle Eye and War Games. It makes a nice change from your standard director interview.
Road Trip (03m:05s): A more general look at all the various different types of locations and various forms of travel present in the film. At only 3 minutes long, this feature jumps from set to set and scene to scene quite rapidly.
Gag Reel, 2.40:1, (07m:00s): A gag reel that is done in under ten minutes – hooray! There are some great outtakes in here, most of the better ones involve Billy Bob Thornton going off on a bizarre tangent whenever he forgets his lines, my personal favourite is: “Ethan Shaw had a 183 IQ, he could probably spray-paint The Times Crossword!”.
Photo Gallery: Pretty self-explanatory this one.
Theatrical Trailer, 2.40:1, English DD5.1, (02m:28s): Another self-explanatory feature.
All extras are presented in 1080p at 1.78:1 and in English DD2.0 unless otherwise stated. Optional English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, and Spanish subtitles are included on all extras, except for the Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer.