Thursday, March 26, 2009

20cc reviews: Eagle Eye

I know I had planned to review Resident Evil 5 for this week, but I would like to get the rest of the way through, to try out the cooperative mode, and to see if the story is somehow salvaged at the end.

However, my conscience won't suffer me to take the week off, so I'm throwing together an Eagle Eye review. I know it's not exactly new, and I wasn't actually watching it with the intent of writing a review, but it did raise some interesting talking points.

As an overview, Eagle Eye is about an uninspired loser (Shia LaBeouf (I still can't get over how similar his name is to “the beef” in French)) and an overworked single mother (Michelle Monaghan) who are contacted by a mysterious woman and forced into working for her to an unknown end. The woman seems to know everything about them, and manipulates their surroundings to assist them, by opening train doors, changing traffic lights, etc. Meanwhile, an FBI agent (Billy Bob Thornton) is hunting LaBeouf, unaware of his situation, and an Air Force investigator (Rosario Dawson) is looking into the accidental death of LaBeouf's brother, a lieutenant in the force.

As expected, the movie showcases the often absurd feats of technology the mysterious woman utilizes to aid her pawns. In some cases, it makes for an interesting commentary on the dangers of our culture's technology. Others were a little too far toward the unrealistic side. For instance, everyone's favorite image enhancement trick, whereby an investigator zooms in several hundred times on a sector of an image, and then commands the techie to “enhance the image.” You can't create pixels from nothing. Someday I want to see the computer operator attempt to photoshop the image.

As far as the writing went, it was nothing terribly spectacular. Occasionally, I got the feeling that the characters were too clichéd, but it wasn't a huge issue. Unfortunately, most of the bigger issues I have with the film involve the ending. That being said:




To catch you up, it is revealed that the mysterious woman is in fact an advanced reconnaissance computer called ARIIA. Because of a poor decision made by the president at the opening of the film, ARIIA decided that the executive branch is a threat to the good of the American people, and devises a plan to destroy it. This plan involves smuggling a military-developed crystalline explosive into a concert attended by most of the chain of succession for the presidency. The crystal is shaped into a necklace and given to Monaghan to wear to a concert, and then triggered by a certain note at the end of the song. (Yes, that is how Get Smart ended, except it's even less logical, because instead of using the ending cadence as a trigger, it's only a single note, forcing us to conclude that there is only a single high F in The Star-Spangled Banner.) This ending works very well for a comedy, but fails a little when it tries to be taken seriously.

In the end, the plot is undone when LaBeouf sneaks into the concert, disguised as a security guard, climbs onto a table and fires into the air, disrupting the concert. The security detail, having failed at keeping LaBeouf from mugging one of their own to sneak in, shoot him several times. I thought this salvaged the rather silly plot. Although clichéd, I thought it worked well to see LaBeouf, a deadbeat who never accomplished anything, sacrifice himself to save not only the president, but Monaghan, with whom he had become close.

Unfortunately, there was another scene afterwards. Apparently LaBeouf actually survived the shooting, (and the legal and political feeding frenzy that would have followed) and is shown attending Monaghan's son's birthday party, where the two have a touching heart to heart and kiss. (Monaghan, that is, not her son.) The movie had managed to pull a satisfying ending out of a juvenile premise and then somehow throw away any credibility it had. My theory is that the last scene was attached because it was decided that the American public was too simpleminded to accept the first ending. While that may be true, it is no less unfortunate.

And so what we have here is a movie that is undoubtedly fun to watch, but only if you're willing to suspend a whole lot of disbelief. There are fun fight scenes, fun special effects, but little in the way of artistic value. Also, at the risk of sounding simpleminded, I would like to suggest that ARIIA seems very similar to GlaDOS, from Portal. It's just a suggestion.

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