Continuing to plunder Hitchcock’s canon for sturdy genre premises, director D.J. Caruso and star Shia LaBeouf follow-up last year’s Disturbia with Eagle Eye, an innocent-man-on-the-run mystery in which Stanford dropout and copy store employee Jerry (LaBeouf) is framed for terrorist activities by an enigmatic female cellphone caller and then ordered to comply with her demands lest he be arrested. Jerry may be traveling east from Chicago to D.C., but—at least for the film’s opening third—he’s, in spirit, traveling north by northwest, with the voice helping him evade, which find the voice helping him evade Billy Bob Thornton’s F.B.I. agent and Rosario Dawson’s Air Force officer by communicating via, as well as manipulating to his benefit, every electronic device around.
Pairing Jerry with divorced mother Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), who’s cooperating to save her imperiled young son, the shadowy puppetmaster is soon revealed to be an in-beta national security supercomputer known as Aria, which has been granted control of virtually every facet of 21st -century life because, apparently, no one in the government has ever seen The Terminator. Such derivativeness is endemic to Eagle Eye (Aria also has the red eye of 2001’s HAL, and constantly talks about “enemies of the state”), which, despite four credited screenwriters, boasts not one iota of originality, exploiting techno-phobia, terrorism anxieties and state-surveillance fears with a jumbled clunkiness that extends to its action.
Determined to remake himself into a mini-Michael Bay (replete with military hardware fetishism!), Caruso shoots primarily in shaky, glossy close-ups that obliterate any sense of spatial proportion, scale or lucidity during either conversational moments or a breakneck nighttime car chase that’s a blur of headlights, crashing metal and fireballs. Meanwhile, LaBeouf and Monaghan’s harried protagonists are bestowed with pressing familial issues to work out during their insanely eventful but thrill-deficient cross-country adventure. These personal problems, however, are just dross designed to further complicate efforts to decipher the narrative’s central questions, which turn out to have answers so inane—Aria’s master plan being scream-at-the-screen illogical considering her stated objectives—that they’re not worth uncovering, much less pondering. It’s outdated, banal paranoia given a superficial, big-budget contempo polish, and made all the more dispiriting by the fact that the Big Brother watching over its creation was once-mighty popcorn-film maestro Steven Spielberg.