Shia LaBeouf is pushing his luck.
Steven Spielberg has reportedly been grooming him to be the next Tom Hanks, but the way he chooses projects he’s looking to be the next Vin Diesel. The latest of his style-over-substance, action disasterpiece films, “Eagle Eye,” is big, loud and complicated, but never quite fun. It wants to be a referendum on the growing Big Brother complex of wiretapping and intelligence gathering, but buries its fears under a series of absurd feats.
The film opens with Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) attending the funeral of his identical twin brother, a hero in the Air Force and everything that the unmotivated Jerry was not. When he returns home, he receives a phone call from a mysterious woman who frames him for planning a terrorist attack and instructs him on how to flee the FBI. He runs into another victim of this twisted game, Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), who obeys every command to keep her son alive. They don’t know why they’ve been chosen, but they have to run, drive, shoot and fly their way to whatever destination is planned for them.
Sounds like a standard throwaway blockbuster, but the film quickly sets itself up as a nonsensical thriller that loses sight of logic from the start and just keeps going. These two have been extensively monitored, yet they pick a woman who can’t drive a stick-shift and force her to outrun cops in heavy traffic. Neither have ever held a gun, yet they repeatedly gain the upper hand against trained personnel. Federal agents realize someone or something can control electronic signals, yet they never think to dispose of the cell phones. By the time the film’s main twists and reveals arrive, it’s already an impossible and silly situation. The plans of the voice on the other end of the phone are so grandiose that you almost have to laugh.
They picked Jerry for a reason, but that reason is so simple that you’re left wondering why they didn’t just get him in an alley and throw him into a van rather than create a national incident. Rachel’s selection is seemingly arbitrary, as she is only related to the ridiculous scheme tangentially. Many of the film’s implausibilities hit at the end of the film, so for the sake of spoilers, I’ll leave them for you to spot.
On the positive side, the acting is fairly decent; no one stands out, but no one is that bad, either. Billy Bob Thorton and Rosario Dawson are fun even though both are phoning it in, and LaBeouf has an undeniable charm no matter how many cookie-cutter action flicks he stars in. Spielberg might be on to something with this kid, because he does give off a Tom Hanks vibe; he isn’t the Hollywood Adonis, but he could be the ideal Everyman if he just gets some decent films under his belt.
As far as fall blockbusters go, this is your average last grab for cash before all the Oscar bait washes into theaters, but it doesn’t take into account the difference between suspension of disbelief and willful ignorance. The action might please some, but it falls into the great pitfall of CGI effects: it crams too much into every frame and winds up confusing. So many cars pile up it’s impossible to figure out which ones belong to the characters. Caruso shot this thing like a music video; it’s all jump cutty and disorienting, but never in an artistic way. Given the choice between this and the other fall blockbuster, “Miracle at St. Anna,” rent Iron Man instead.