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You can’t keep eyes off this car wreck

POSTED: October 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures

Shia LaBoeuf is Jerry Shaw, an everyman whose life is thrown upside down by a mysterious woman on his cell phone - who happens to be able to control everything. Despite being completely implausible, the action sequences are fun to watch.

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Slacker Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) has just attended the funeral of his overachieving twin brother, Ethan. On the way home, he stops at an ATM and the machine inexplicably reports his balance as $750,000 and begins spitting bills at him. He arrives at his apartment to find it filled with bomb-making supplies, heavy artillery and flight plan information.

Jerry’s phone rings and an anonymous female voice tells him to leave immediately, before the FBI arrives. Incredulous and confused, Jerry sticks around and is, indeed, arrested. After being interrogated by Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), Jerry again receives phone orders from the woman. He escapes and is now a wanted man.

Meanwhile, Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) puts her son on a train to Washington, D.C., where his school orchestra will perform. Holloman then receives a call from the same woman, who tells Holloman to follow her orders or her son will die. Rachel obeys, hops in a Porsche waiting for her curbside, and picks up Jerry, who she doesn’t know.

Agent Morgan and Air Force Intelligence Agent Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson) team up to pursue Jerry and Rachel, and the chase is on.

Jerry and Rachel are thus tossed into an old Hitchcock formula, in which two everyman characters find themselves in a complex conspiracy plot. They are innocent but the government suspects them of treason, a la "Saboteur" or "North by Northwest."

Lucky for them that the woman on the phone seems to control everything. During a car chase sequence, she turns all the traffic lights green, sends Jerry and Rachel directions via the car’s GPS system and uses a garbage crane to snatch up a police car. And that’s only one scene! She also controls all surveillance cameras, listens to conversations via power lines (I’d love an explanation of the "science" on that one) and probably resets everyone’s VCR clocks, too.

"Eagle Eye" is the best bad movie of the year. It is unapologetically preposterous and fearlessly shirks off any obligation to reality or good taste. It builds to a climax that’s about as believable as 1970s disaster movies like "Towering Inferno" or "Black Sunday."

But there’s something irresistible about a movie that tries so damned hard to give us our money’s worth. Because despite being laughably absurd, "Eagle Eye" refuses to let us lose interest.

After each action sequence, the people around me let out huge sighs, as if they had just run the 100-meter dash and were gearing up for the next heat.

Both LaBeouf and Monaghan play the everyman very well. Dawson and Michael Chiklis, as Defense Secretary Callister, hold their own playing it straight. But Thornton is a riot as a tough-talking, relentless FBI investigator. I’d love to see a competition between Thornton’s Agent Morgan and Tommy Lee Jones’ Marshal Gerard from "The Fugitive" for who can bark the most threatening one-liner.

"Eagle Eye" does, inevitably, get political, preaching an already-tired sermon about sacrificing national ideals in pursuit of security.

But forget the political mumbo jumbo. The story is so ludicrous, they don’t really want us to take the politics seriously.

"Eagle Eye" plays fast and loose with both our post-Patriot Act paranoia and our willingness to believe all its absurd twists.

Yet, it also does what a thriller ought to do, which is to simply entertain.

 

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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