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Eagle Eye: 2-Disc Special Edition DVD Review

Eagle Eye movie poster Eagle Eye

Theatrical Release: September 26, 2008 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: D.J. Caruso / Writers: John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hillary Seitz (screenplay only); Dan McDermott

Cast: Shia LaBeouf (Jerry Damon Shaw / Ethan W. Shaw), Michelle Monaghan (Rachel Holloman), Rosario Dawson (Zoe Perez), Michael Chiklis (Defense Secretary Callister), Anthony Mackie (Major William Bowman), Ethan Embry (Agent Toby Grant), Billy Bob Thornton (Agent Thomas Morgan), Anthony Azizi (Ranim Khalid), Cameron Boyce (Sam Holloman), Lynn Cohen (Mrs. Wierzbowski), Bill Smitrovich (Admiral Thompson), Charles Carroll (Mr. Miller), William Sadler (Jerry's Dad), Deborah Strang (Jerry's Mom)

Buy Eagle Eye from Amazon.com: 2-Disc Special Edition DVD 1-Disc DVD Blu-ray Disc


By Kelvin Cedeno

Actor Shia LaBeouf has certainly been on an upward slope the past couple of years. After a successful run in the Disney Channel series "Even Stevens", his film career proceeded mostly with supporting roles in things like I, Robot and Constantine. 2007's Disturbia scored a hit with LaBeouf in a starring role and by then, the young actor had already landed leads in the high-profile Steven Spielberg summer movies Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
With his name and status cemented, LaBeouf reteamed with his Disturbia director D.J. Caruso to star in another suspense film, 2008's Eagle Eye.

This hyperactive story follows Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf), a twin whose estranged military brother died in a car accident. With unstable finances and a less than scintillating job, Jerry finds his dull life completely shaken up one afternoon when an ATM mysteriously withdraws thousands of dollars worth of cash from his often dry account. To make matters more befuddling, a myriad of military weaponry is delivered to his apartment, landing him deep in legal woes.

Meanwhile, single mom Rachel Hollomon (Michelle Monaghan) sends her child off to a special class recital in Washington. Shortly after her son's departure, Rachel receives an enigmatic phone call threatening to kill him should she not follow through with the instructions given to her. Her actions lead her to Jerry, who has also been obeying the same anonymous caller ever since the apartment fiasco. Both individuals blindly follow the directions they're given, often finding themselves in precarious situations that they miraculously are saved from time and again.

Shocked at how far a villain can stretch credibility, Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) watch on in horror. Rachel Hollomon (Michelle Monaghan) reacts similarly to how most (non-New Yorkers) would to a call threatening their child's life.

Much has been said about Eagle Eye's outrageous storyline. Without spoiling the details, the unknown caller is able to control everything and anything the two leads find themselves up against. It's true that many of these victories are hard to swallow, practically rendering the film flat-out fantasy. That said, if one is able to leave his brain at the door and simply go along for the ride, Eagle Eye can be a fairly engaging thriller.

This is helped strongly by the performances of both LaBeouf and Monaghan. The script makes some attempts at dimensionality for the two characters, but the actors elevate it higher than it has any right to go. There's a risk that Jerry and Rachel could come across as little more than passive puppets, and while the film steers close to that at times, LaBeouf and Monaghan put forth the effort to avoid it.

After its first act setup, the action onboard is practically non-stop. Nary two minutes seem to go by without another set piece revving up. It ensures that the pacing remains fast and taut, but can get a bit exhausting after a while.

Without knowing how powerful a disembodied voice can be, Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) sets out to find out how two people can accomplish such special effects without CGI. Defense Secretary Callister (Michael Chiklis) and Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson) wonder when their plot thread is finally going to become relevant to the main one.

Two things prohibit the overblown action from reaching its full potential. First, Eagle Eye follows in the tradition of the Jason Bourne sequels with its frenetic, two-second editing and shaky camera movements. Not only is this approach flat-out aggravating, but it also eliminates any sense of scope and grandeur these sequences could have. Secondly, the storyline doesn't hold up well to scrutiny should the viewer decide to think about it. Blurred motives and unanswered questions abound, and what's left feels like rehash from better films. The core story hook is even taken straight from another, and superior, Shia LaBeouf picture that obviously can't be disclosed here.

One can't be too harsh on Eagle Eye, however. The filmmakers have admitted that they didn't set out to create moving or thought-provoking cinema. They simply wanted to take the audience on a two-hour amusement ride. While the flaws can't be fully forgiven on account of the crew's minimal ambition, the picture does admittedly get the job done. It's easy to get immersed in the thrills as they unfold, especially with the effective performances. Once it's over, though, it fails to really stick, and what does stick reveals problems not immediately noticed at first. Still, there are undoubtedly worse ways to get distracted for two hours.

Buy Eagle Eye: 2-Disc Special Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 27, 2008
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on 1-Disc DVD and on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

Eagle Eye appears in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. With Blu-ray claiming the the attention of different home video divisions, some new DVD releases as of late have had curiously subpar transfers. Luckily, that's not the case here. The film is presented crisply, cleanly, and with accurate color timing. The free space on Disc One also prevents any compression or digital artifacts from cropping up.

A popcorn action film such as this one guarantees a dynamic track, and that's exactly what the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround offering is. Surround channels are rampantly employed, from busy highways to crowds of people. Practically every scene utilizes the rear speakers in some way, even some of the dialogue-driven moments play with directionality. All the elements work together so that no portion needs to fight to be heard.

Director D.J. Caruso plans his split-second shot ahead of time in "Road Trip." Shia LaBeouf raves about Steven Spielberg's involvement with this project in "Asymmetrical Warfare." He would. Matt Raymond, Director of Communications for the Library of Congress, gives a personal tour of the landmark in "Eagle Eye on Location: Washington D.C."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Eagle Eye arrives in three separate editions: a single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD with additional features, and a Blu-ray disc containing everything from the latter. The supplements shared by all three appear on Disc One,

beginning with three deleted scenes (3:35). Only the first is a fully cut scene; the other two are actually extended ones. All of them are minor enough to neither harm nor aid the film, thus making their deletions a bit questionable. A lack of introduction or commentary leaves such questions unanswered.

Next is "Road Trip" (3:03). This is quite obviously a promotional featurette as there's an abundance of both film clips and praise of the on-location shooting. Some good shots pop up, but these can be found in the following supplements in greater depth. It's a good inclusion for completeness' sake, but little else.

The DVD extras exclusive to this 2-disc Special Edition all appear on Disc Two. A feeling of corporate greed looms over this release as all of the Special Edition's supplements could easily have fit on the first disc, thus negating the need for a premium edition. The extra extras start with an alternate ending (1:07), which once again is really an extension. While there's no explanation included, it's obvious this was cut to avoid expectations for a sequel.

"Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye" (25:28) is the set's all-encompassing centerpiece. As is customary in these sort of pieces, interviews with the cast and crew are interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage. While there's a fair bit of general praise going around, quite a bit of insight is still gleamed, most notably in how most of the effects were practical rather than digital. This is a satisfying featurette overall.

"Eagle Eye on Location: Washington D.C." (5:56) does precisely what its title suggests: it provides a look at the various locales used to shoot the picture. Cast and crew members discuss the avoidance of Hollywood sets, though Matt Raymond, Director of Communications for the Library of Congress, takes up most of the piece with a tour of key landmarks. Despite its brevity, a great deal of information is relayed here.

D.J. Caruso gleefully and openly admits how much he stole from John Badham's "WarGames" in "Shall We Play a Game?". To an off-screen D.J. Caruso's frustration, Michelle Monaghan breaks character during an intense scene during the gag reel. Apparently, Jerry and Rachel are being tracked via X-Men's Cerebro on the main menu.

"Is My Cell Phone Spying On Me?" (9:13) is a slightly peculiar, though certainly relevant, feature. The central focuses are the topic of privacy in this technological age and the ethics attached to it. As in the previous piece, opinions from the cast and crew are outweighed by experts in the field. If nothing else, a sense of paranoia is gained from this.

"Shall We Play A Game?" (9:19) differs in style from the preceding material. It contains a one-on-one interview with director D.J. Caruso and the man behind Eagle Eye's primary inspiration - John Badham, the director of WarGames. Unfortunately, Badham is barely given time to do anything but silently react to Caruso's gushing praise. A couple of interesting comparisons between both films are touched upon, but this feature mostly stands as a disappointment.

The gag reel (6:59) contains the sort of flubbed takes and on-camera hijinks viewers have come to expect from something like this. A highlight, though, is some humorous improvising between Rosario Dawson and Billy Bob Thornton.

A 40-still Photo Gallery mixes publicity images with production ones and is marred by an obnoxious presentation. Not only does the gallery fail to utilize thumbnails for easy access, but it displays each image in a cropped, heavily-bordered frame. The images are compromised in a distracting and inconvenient manner.

Finally, in a rare move for a new release, the theatrical trailer (2:23) is included.

Disc One opens with four previews that can also be accessed from the bonus material menu. These include The Uninvited, Tropic Thunder, Ghost Town, and Without A Paddle: Nature's Calling.

The discs' shared main menu shows an animated web of electronic signals used to track down the lead characters. All other menus are silent and static, featuring promotional cast headshots. Housed in a black Amaray case that slides into a holographic cardboard slipcover, the discs feature the bland, gray surface now synonymous with Paramount releases. No insert is included.

Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) and Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) get to know each other in the understated setting of a trash dump. If Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) wasn't already in deep federal sewage, this act pretty much seals his fate.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Eagle Eye is not great cinema. Riddled with plot holes and borrowed elements, it has trouble standing as something truly noteworthy on its own. Regardless, it offers some solid escapist thrills. The DVD presentation is top notch as both video and audio excel as well as possible on the format. The supplements are hit and miss but are fair overall. They're certainly not deserving of an entire separate disc. Those in the mood for some mindless action fun are recommended to rent Eagle Eye, for even if they enjoy it, repeated viewing is unlikely. As for which version to rent, the bonus material here isn't strong enough to actively search for, so the single-disc edition is fine if it's the only option.

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Reviewed January 15, 2009.



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