Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Encouraging “Eagle Eye” electricity exits early



During an early-August visit to Los Angeles, a group of film journos accepted an invitation to preview the first third of “Eagle Eye,” the latest showcase featuring Steven Spielberg wunderkind Shia LeBeouf.

Now, even if some of us don’t understand the young actor’s appeal to the rest of the world, the thriller from good-guy director D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”) looked legit, starting with some tense moments in a war room and shifting quickly to several relentless and separate cell phone intrusions into the lives of seemingly shiftless young Jerry Shaw (LeBeouf) and adorable single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan)

I, for one, couldn’t wait to watch the rest, even trying to guess how Joan Allen, whose voice I was convinced made all those threatening and demanding directives to the two young adults in peril, figured into the non-stop action that was sure to come.

Uh, as I found out in a Tuesday night screening in a Cleveland suburb, I was wrong – on all counts. Not only is the great Ms. Allen missing from the entire mix, but the early promise of that first 35 minutes or so quickly dissolved into techno/sci-fi absurdity and, at best, a tenuous political statement. (Actually, it’s a bit reminiscent of the much more solid “WarGames.”)

Obviously, the filmmakers came up with a great premise they couldn’t cash in on, despite decent work from the always likable Monaghan; Billy Bob Thornton, as an FBI agent; and Rosario Dawson, as some sort of Air Force expert/operative.

LeBeouf actually has a dual role, since much of the nonsensical resolution involves the death of Shaw’s twin brother. By the way, I figured that out in the first half-hour.

See the rest it at your own risk.

(Be sure to read my reviews of “The Lucky Ones,” “I Served the King of England,” and Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” in this week’s Sun News, where Lee and a few of his stars also discuss the film.)

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