Opens: Friday, Sept. 26
LOS ANGELES -- Big Brother keeps awfully busy in "Eagle Eye," a shrill, far-fetched thriller about a slacker whose every move is suddenly choreographed by high-tech forces beyond his control.
Reuniting Shia LaBeouf with his "Disturbia" director, D.J. Caruso, the film owes a tip of the microchip to 1983's "WarGames" -- just as their previous collaboration essentially was an update of Hitchcock's "Rear Window" -- but this time around the imitation is less flattering.
Even those who surrender all disbelief at the door will be hard-pressed not to smirk at some of the wildly improbable plotting that keeps threatening to derail the visual escapism, energetically orchestrated by Caruso and editor Jim Page.
It probably won't deter action-starved younger audiences, at least in its opening weekend, but "Eagle Eye" likely will fly well under "Disturbia's" $80 million radar.
Originally a hypothetical concept by executive producer Steven Spielberg about what might happen if our increasingly pervasive technology would one day turn on us, the idea has been fleshed out over the past few years by several writers, including Dan McDermott, John Glenn & Travis Adam Wright and Hillary Seitz.
The end result has strangers Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) and Michelle Monaghan's Rachel Holloman being pulled into a high-tech vortex for unknown reasons, controlled by a highly persuasive female voice on a cell phone.
In short order, Shaw, whose identical twin brother, an Air Force public relations officer, was killed in a car accident, and Holloman, a single mom who may never see her 8-year-old son alive again if she doesn't follow orders, find themselves labeled terrorists, pursued by the Pentagon and the FBI.
Also tapping into Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" as well as "2001: A Space Odyssey," the picture starts off promisingly, with some terrific set pieces, including an awe-inspiring sequence set in an auto scrap yard manned by gigantic, remote-controlled, metal-crushing cranes.
But though Caruso directs the heck out of it, perpetual motion isn't sufficient.
Like any thriller, the action must be carefully calibrated, with a ticking-clock element that truly ratchets up the tension.
Unfortunately, "Eagle Eye" proves to be as tightly coiled as a Slinky, and for all their running around, LaBeouf and the normally engaging Monaghan are stuck with characters who aren't particularly lively and, more problematic, fail to spark the requisite chemistry.
At least Billy Bob Thornton manages to impart a little spontaneity to the mechanical dialogue as the take-no-crap FBI agent who's on their trail.
He's the only one who doesn't sound like he's phoning it in.
Production: Kurtzman/Orci Prods. Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Billy Bob Thornton. Director: D.J. Caruso. Screenwriters: John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz, Dan McDermott. Executive producers: Steven Spielberg, Edward L. McDonnell. Producers: Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, Patrick Crowley. Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski. Production designer: Tom Sanders. Music: Brian Tyler. Costume designer: Marie-Sylvie Deveau. Editor: Jim Page. Rated PG-13, 118 minutes.