Following the death of his twin brother, Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) is framed as a terrorist. Arrested by the FBI, he is sprung by a female caller and coerced, along with a single mum (Monaghan), into going on a dangerous mission.
Round two, then, of D.J. Caruso’s updating of Hitchcock classics using modern gadgetry, contemporary paranoia and Shia LaBeouf in for James Stewart/Cary Grant. After 2007’s entertaining Rear Window reboot Disturbia, Eagle Eye is North By Northwest 2.0., with an EveryShia accused of a crime he didn’t commit, forced to go on the lam with a beautiful gal (M:I-III’s Michelle Monaghan), building to a big climax at an American landmark. The result is a hugely enjoyable slice of nifty nonsense that revels in the pleasures of its plotting, and cleverly plays on everyday fears we all share: the fear of invasive technology, of terrorist cells, and of having William Sadler as your dad.
As with 99.9 per cent of all thrillers, the set-up is more satisfying than its resolution. Trading on LaBeouf’s eminently likable mix of the charming and the resentful, his Jerry Shaw is a photocopy slave, good with the laydeez but estranged from his pop (Sadler). He is pulled into a malevolent version of Steve Martin’s L. A. Story, as out-of-control electronic signs, traffic lights changing at will and TV screens in McDonald’s mysteriously coerce and direct both him and Monaghan’s single mother on a wild goose chase with Billy Bob Thornton’s FBI blowhard in hot pursuit. This is where the movie is most fun, with the anonymous woman on the end of the line turning the couple into unlikely hold-up artists, Japanese tourists and airport security crashers. And when the story delivers the pair into an open plain, it seems ripe for a Hitchcockian cropduster to hove into view. But Caruso has a different shock in store. He’s saving his ‘cropduster’ moment for later.
Minus a lovely little scene in which Shaw quizzes Rachel about her kid, you get little in the way of characterisation. So it is a good job that Eagle Eye delivers practically non-stop action. After a summer packed with pixels, Caruso orchestrates his spills with a satisfying physicality; you feel that stuntfolks are mostly doing this stuff in front of your very eyes. From a bruising car chase down busy boulevards that segues into a breaker’s yard with cars being swung around like wrecking balls, to fisticuffs backstage at an airport, Caruso whisks his action into a spectacular but believable frenzy. He’s aided by his lead. LaBeouf doesn’t act running; he runs. Not playing second fiddle to huge machines or Indiana Jones, he finally earns his action-man stripes.
To reveal much more is to quash Eagle Eye’s chief what-happens-next delight. Suffice it to say, we get half-baked sub-plots involving Rosario Dawson’s Air Force investigator exploring the death of Shaw’s twin — Shia with neater hair — and an under-utilised Michael Chiklis as a Secretary Of Defense at the centre of a military fuck-up. It is when all these plot-twists start to coalesce that Eagle Eye’s ludicrousness becomes ever more apparent — but it’s a good kind of ludicrous. Caruso keeps everything moving so quickly and with such panache that you will barely notice or care. If he doesn’t yet have the craft and clarity of a Cameron or his executive producer Spielberg, let alone Hitchcock, he’s getting there.
A fun techno romp, mixing great bang for your buck with insights into the dangers of restricting civil liberties. Now, anyone for Shia killing blondes dressed as his dead mother?