The Eagle Eye That Doth Supply
What are some of the deep-seating, sometimes irrational, fears that plague mankind, possibly especially Americans? Being wrongfully accused of a heinous crime (or crimes), life-threatening technological malfunctions, and terrorism. Eagle Eye (2008), directed by D.J. Caruso, contains facets of all of these fears. Also at the heart of the movie is the struggle to maintain independence and to gain respect.
The movie opens with an American military attack on a suspected terrorist gathering. The U.S. Defense Secretary advises the President not to attack, but the President overrides his advice. The entire attack is directed cleanly from behind-the-scenes through the use of an automated airplane that can use both surveillance and munitions. Other than just setting the tone for the movie, this scene has importance. It is the proverbial ‘gun in Act I.’
The plot of this movie is relatively simple: a young man, Jerry Shaw, returns to his apartment to find it full of illegal materials—explosives, fake passports, illegal firearms—and receives a phone call from an unknown woman telling him to flee the premises because the FBI are coming. Jerry doesn’t listen and ends up being interrogated. The unknown woman helps him escape, and he is picked up by another strange woman in a car, who is also being directed by the same unknown voice. Both Jerry and Rachel Holloman, the young woman, are coerced into cooperating with the unknown woman. Although Jerry and Rachel do not know, or trust, each other, they are forced into working together.
Of course, the FBI, led by Agent Thomas Morgan, continues to pursue them. Morgan begins to realize, however, that these two people do not have the power to orchestrate some of the extreme measures used to accomplish some of their ‘tasks.’ There is something greater at work here.
One of the joys of this movie is its minimalism. Even though Caruso avails himself of modern technology in filming intense flight scenes, Eagle Eye is not cluttered with unnecessary plot-points or grotesquely overdone action scenes. The movie is centered on the characters: how are they going to react to the situation at hand, given their different roles in life and experience of the world? Although viewers can unravel the plot before it is laid out for them, the answer to the riddle is neither unnecessarily clocked in devious plot-maneuverings, or so thinly disguised as to make the story passé.
Of course, the major part of any movie is the casting. If viewers cannot relate to the protagonist(s), they may lose interest at once. The casting for Eagle Eye was perhaps inspired. None of the characters seemed out of place. Shia LaBeouf, who portrayed Jerry Shaw, his recently gained attention, perhaps especially since playing opposite Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. LaBeouf has both the charm and the ability to carry the lead role. He can toss off natural dialogue when necessary, and also ‘speak’ with nothing more than his facial expression when that is called for. LaBeouf is a rising star, perhaps outshone by others of greater name, fame, or beauty, but I have a feeling LaBeouf will last. There is a permanence about him, an agreeable every-day feeling. But do not underestimate him—he is an actor who has grown in every role I have seen him in.
Michelle Monaghan, who plays Rachel Holloman, was less familiar to me. However, she was good, more importantly believable, in her part. She portrayed the necessary confused emotions, while pressing through to the inevitable conclusion. Billy Bob Thornton adds his gruff acting to the movie in his portrayal of FBI Agent Thomas Morgan. I confess that I do not have any particular fondness for Mr. Thornton. Perhaps because his characters (or his acting) always seems either overly ‘tough-guy’ or too unbelievable vulnerable. In Eagle Eye, however, Thornton fits. He becomes Morgan. His reactions to the situations he faces are natural and often humorous. As Morgan, he seems both jaded by his job and impatient to get to the bottom of whatever problem lies in front of him. In other words, he seems human and not a parody of someone’s idea of human nature.
Another interesting casting choice was Michael Chiklis as Defense Secretary Callister. Chiklis subsumes his stereotypical raging machoism to become an over-taxed public official, charged with making heavy decisions. He shows a vulnerability that is touching and believable.
Eagle Eye is a good, clean action/adventure movie. It interesting, entertaining, and frighteningly believable. It shows some of humanities deepest fears and our ability to rise above seemingly impossible situations to do what we know to be right, no matter what the cost.