Catastrophe ... it's just a phone call away. Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) answered his cell phone after finding his apartment crammed with guns, passports and other terrorist paraphernalia, and ended up on the FBI's sh*t list. A mystery woman -- let's just call her MW -- on the other line told him to flee, but he failed to act. Then MW gave single-mom-doing-her-damnedest Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) a ring, and threatened to harm her son unless she joined Jerry on an extremely dangerous and destructive don't-think-just-do-what-you're-told mission that neither of them understands. Instructions are on a need-to-know basis only, "steal that briefcase from those armed men," "inject yourself with this chemical." And if they don't comply, she'll know. MW's got a knack for tapping into technology -- digital message displays, traffic lights, cell phones. And if she notices that you got on the wrong train she'll text the other passengers and tell them to throw you off. (And don't think they won't listen.) Yet even when making death threats, MW maintains her polite verbal cool. Which makes her a mayhem-making mother******, which makes me both respect and fear the proper British GPS lady who tells me when to turn. (I can tell she's pissed when she has to "recalculate" because I wasn't paying attention.)
When Rachel, Jerry and the other characters involved do what they're told, Eagle Eye's one fast, furious and fiery action film -- a ride at breakneck speed with few plot pit stops. And you should know, numerous vehicles were harmed in the making of this film. They all blowed up good ... real good. Watching them hurl through the air, exploding two or three at a time, one after the other, for about 10 minutes, however, is rather disorienting and potentially PTSD-inflicting.
Nevertheless, if you are similarly willing to barrel along with director D.J. Caruso at breakneck speed, without asking questions, it could easily make for an enjoyable thrill ride. A cleverly pieced plot puzzle holds the suspense steady until the last few minutes. Shia, Michelle and Billy Bob played their parts with believable fervor, but is it only me who has a hard time buying into LaBeouf as action badass? And I'd mention more good points but I don't want to spill any beans. Including a character who I think is worthy of a spinoff feature film. (Here's a clue, but also a potential spoiler: Think Barbarella and 2001: A Space Odyssey's love child.)
On the other hand if you're more cautious, you might question not only the disturbing pliability and predictability of the pawns in Eagle Eye's deadly game, but also their baffling capability to complete tasks that would have surely killed better men (and women) -- even with the aid of a gifted computer hack. Is it that easy for the average American to aim and shoot without losing an eye? Or blast through a barrage of exploding cars, not once, but several times, and not lose an eye? True, most of Hollywood isn't plausible, but usually it offers an excuse for its absurdity. Vat of nuclear waste = superpowers. And if MW knows so much, shouldn't she have known Rachel couldn't drive stick? The moral of the movie (if you saw the trailer, you should have seen the moral coming) is rather groan-worthy -- and not something we need to be reminded of again. It's plainly spoken at the end, but audible throughout the film. A warning about the threat in our own backyard -- but as often is the case with Hollywood blockbusters, the warning comes across more like fear-mongering than constructive social criticism. Personally, I prefer my cinema sans mongering.