Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Moron's Hitchcock

In Eagle Eye, terrorists use sophisticated computer hacking to take control of electronic networks. These bad guys, in their concerted attacks, implausibly operate automated cranes and set off power lines. Caught in the middle is a copy store clerk who has no idea what is going on. The film seems to be an attempt to update the Hitchcock innocent-man-on-the-run thriller, but it comes out looking like a crazy house mirror version of North by Northwest.

Unfortunately, director D.J. Caruso shows no finesse when it comes to pacing. He never holds a shot long enough to build suspense. The film, as cluttered and noisy as it is, never gives the audience the chance to worry about what's going to happen next. It's all explosions and car crashes. Addison Engelking, movie critic for the Memphis Flyer, referred to Caruso as "a moron's Hitchcock." Hitchcock preferred to ratchet up the tension by showing the ticking timebomb hidden underneath the table. The bombs in Eagle Eye don't tick, they just go boom. Oh, wait, a bomb hidden inside a necklace is introduced late in the film. By then, though, I was too shell-shocked to care. Besides, the fact that the the bomb won't be activated until a little boy blows a "high f" on his trumpet is an absurd idea that belongs in an episode of Get Smart. Engelking points out that the film has nothing in it like North By Northwest's famous crop-duster scene, which is made suspenseful by the "long, still shots of Cary Grant in the middle of nowhere."

It makes it even worse that the main characters in the film are shallow and unsympathetic. Hitchcock was not at his strongest when it came to character development, but he was at least able to rely on actors like Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart to bring established personas to his films. Shia LeBeouf doesn't bring much of a character to this film. He's a testy young man with daddy issues. His emotions range from nervous to very nervous to angry to very angry. He's not a guy I'm cheering on to defeat the mysterious terrorists.

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