Saturday, February 21, 2009

REVIEW: Eagle Eye

Looks more like the stink eye to me.

ME: (Picks up phone) Hello?
EAGLE EYE: Matthew Schramm?
ME: This is him.
EAGLE EYE: The FBI will arrive at your apartment in 30 seconds.
ME: Really.
EAGLE EYE: They will arrest you unless you do exactly what I say.
ME: Look, I’ve already given to the Republican National Committee this year, and I don’t contribute over the phone anyway.
At that moment, LaBeouf was filled with regret that he had never had the chance to reconcile his troubled relationship with his brother, Sunni.

EAGLE EYE: You will be arrested unless you do exactly what I say.
ME: (sigh) All right.
EAGLE EYE: Pick up the remote controller to your television.
ME: Okay.
EAGLE EYE: Go to your Pay Per View menu.
ME: Lost is on in five minutes.
EAGLE EYE: Go to your Pay Per View menu.
ME: I repeat, Lost is on in five minutes.
EAGLE EYE: I have just cancelled Lost, and replaced it with a two-hour Grey’s Anatomy.
ME: (Unintelligible)

"Hee-hee! I like you! I'm going to eat your soul last!"

EAGLE EYE: Go to your Pay Per View menu. Select New Releases. Order Eagle Eye on Pay Per View. Watch Eagle Eye.
ME: Rent Eagle Eye? I already watched it. I’m not paying $5 for that piece of crap again.
EAGLE EYE: Eagle Eye is an excellent film. You will rent Eagle Eye, then purchase the DVD, then purchase the Blu-Ray. If you do not comply, I will kill you. Then, I will cancel 24.
ME: Survey says… up yours.
EAGLE EYE: Explain why you do not want to see Eagle Eye again.
ME: Do you want the short version, or one of those stupid reviews I post on my website?
EAGLE EYE: I require a thorough analysis of why you refuse to watch Eagle Eye again.

"Now, listen carefully. Brush every night, hold on to your asthma medicine, and don't go asking strangers for their souls."

ME: All right. The first scene is in a military command center of some kind, where some Army officials are debating whether or not to launch a drone missile strike at a village in the Middle East, because they think that some generic terrorist mastermind is attending a funeral there, but they can’t be sure it’s him. They’re getting spy footage of the guy, but their computer system isn’t sure it’s really him: it’s saying there’s a 51% probability. The Secretary of Defense (Michael Chiklis) doesn’t want to blow up a funeral for a half-and-half chance this is really the right guy, but he calls the President, and the Prez says that it’s worth blowing up a bunch of people at a funeral to get this guy. So they shoot, but we later find out it’s not him, and the US just killed a bunch of innocent people in the Middle East. Somewhere, halfway across the world, Keith Olbermann reaches orgasm. Hey, Eagle Eye, you don’t suppose you could cancel Keith Olbermann, could you?
EAGLE EYE: If you rent Eagle Eye again.

Living in the Matrix can be good: you can download college courses directly into your brain, you get to fly to work, and the evening news is filled with exciting shootouts. The downside is that e-mail spam manifests itself physically.

ME: Never mind. Anyway, cut to Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), a Stanford drop-out who works at a Kinkos knock-off in Chicago. Jerry’s a quick wit and a fast talker, but also quite a loser. He has a dead-end job and an apartment in the depressed neighborhoods of the Matrix, yet he does carry around a state-of-the-art cell phone, conveniently enough. In addition to being a loser and a skinny guy with a laughable beard, he’s depressed because his identical twin brother Ethan, a proud Air Force lieutenant, has died in a traffic accident. Jerry’s very sad because he loved his brother, but hadn‘t spoken to him in years. I’m sad because I’m five minutes into a movie I paid $5 for, and already it’s resembling Maximum Risk.
EAGLE EYE: That is unfair.

"Now, listen carefully. We have a fugitive on the run. I want you to search every farmhouse, doghouse, henhouse, outhouse, townhouse, boathouse, treehouse, whorehouse, lighthouse, international pancake house, House of Payne, House MD... I'm sorry, I forgot where I was going with this."

ME: Returning home that day, Jerry finds that dozens of boxes containing poison, flight manuals, assault rifles, explosives, and fertilizer have literally filled his apartment. So, wait a minute. There are these dozens of boxes, many with the word ‘POISON’ or ‘AMONIUM NITRIATE’ on the side, all delivered to his apartment while he’s out at work, and the delivery company didn’t at any point figure out that they should take a closer look at this stuff before delivering it? Or that maybe they shouldn’t FLOOD a guy’s apartment with boxes he never signed for? Is this Brown? Is this what they mean when they tell me to ask what it can do for me?
EAGLE EYE: At this point, you do not know who delivered it. Maybe the bad guys delivered it.
ME: I’ve already seen the rest of the movie. I know this doesn’t make any sense.
EAGLE EYE: Get on with it. The FBI will be coming to your house eventually. After Grey’s Anatomy. The FBI loves Grey’s Anatomy.

Controversy over the stimulus package erupted in Congress when lawmakers discovered, in section 427, paragraph 6, what the plan to relieve despondent stock traders involved.

ME: Speaking of which, Jerry gets a cell phone call from a flat-speaking female voice telling him to get out of his apartment, because the FBI is going to arrive in 30 seconds and arrest him. Since I’ve already seen the trailer, I know Jerry doesn’t get out in time, and he’s forcibly detained and taken to the branch office. There, he’s interrogated by Special Agent Tom Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton, deciding that no innocent-man-framed movie is complete without a sarcastic, fast-talking cracker of a special agent to chase him). Jerry tries to talk sense into Morgan and tell him it’s crazy that he would be a terrorist mastermind, but Morgan seems to think that Jerry and Ethan were in on something together. Because of this suspected connection, Air Force Something Something Agent Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson) arrives to butt in on Morgan’s investigation. And despite being an attractive young black female, not to follow in Halle Berry’s footsteps and scale Mount Thornton, thank God and all the saints in heaven. When Jerry’s given his token phone call, the female voice is back, telling him to get on the floor, just as a crane sweeps by and slashes through the building around him. Led on by a flashing marquee on the side of the building across the street that says, “JUMP JERRY, JUMP,” Jerry does just that, and escapes onto the streets just ahead of Morgan‘s gunfire. It’s rather fortuitous for the evil voice that Jerry manages to survive all that, considering how critical he is to her plan. In fact, she beats him like a rented Prius throughout the film, not that I’m objecting, considering how obnoxious his character is.
EAGLE EYE: I thought you would like that.

"Mommy, look what I won!" "Billy, this is your last crane game before we go to the shoe store!"

ME: Elsewhere in town, Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) turns invisible and sneaks into her naked neighbor’s apart… Oh, wait, wrong Hollow Man. She’s a single mom whose son, Sam (uh, a kid), is taking the train to Washington, DC as part of band trip to play at the Kennedy Center. Michelle’s not looking her best in this movie, and the kid’s a living Alfred E. Neumann, so I’m afraid the deadbeat ex-husband has to be the pretty one of the family. But more importantly, Rachel gets a cell phone call from the flat-voiced lady, telling her that she’ll derail her child’s train if she doesn’t comply. And how does Rachel know that the mystery Ritalin-taking lady is telling the truth? Simple: the lady momentarily turns a television screen on the outside of a nearby McDonald’s to show security footage from Sam’s train. I was shocked by this scene: what the hell does a McDonald’s need a television display outside the restaurant for? And moreover… Huh-huh. I get it now. It’s Jerry, and he’s being chased by Tom. That’s funny.
EAGLE EYE: You are rambling.
ME: So both Jerry and Rachel are told to get to a black Porsche that mystery flat-voiced woman has arranged to them, and they manage to get in and exchange quick pleasantries--you know, “So you were led here by an evil synthetic woman’s voice threatening to destroy your life? Wow, so was I! I really feel a connection here!”--before the feds start shooting at them and chasing them by car. The voice on the phone keeps telling them where to go, and turns all the red lights to green for them, while doing the opposite for the cops pursuing them, leading to some spectacular crashes. The voice even helps out by taking over control of the car for a particularly tough bit of driving. Because we all know that a car’s transmission system has a constant internet uplink; it makes the car vulnerable to hackers, but it‘s essential for the car‘s Digital Rights Management system. The chase continues into a scrap yard, where giant cranes swoop down and carry off or crush the cop cars, and then carry Jerry and Rachel to safety on a barge. Their escape leaves Agents Morgan and Perez marveling at the goofiness of it all…

"So Bob, how many Kennedys does that make for us this week?"

EAGLE EYE: It was very exciting.
ME: Oh yes, very exciting. Like watching the car chase from The Rock, except that Sean Connery’s OnStar won‘t shut up. Moving along, the mystery voice keeps booking passage for Jerry and Rachel toward the airport. Along the way, it forces them to hold up an armored car and steal a mysterious briefcase, sneak aboard a Japanese tour bus (…), and to date the movie in the worst possible way, go to a Circuit City. There, the mystery voice announces its true identity to Jerry and Rachel: an omnipotent computer program that quotes the Constitution. Yeah.

"Speak up! I must not be able to hear you from over there! It sounded like you said Gwyneth Paltrow's head was in there!"

EAGLE EYE: Was that not an incredible revelation?
ME: Very much so. I had just paid $5 to watch a remake of Enemy of the State, except with SHODAN in place of Jon Voigt. Around this time, Agent Perez is pulled off her investigation by the Secretary of Defense so that she can go see the project Ethan Shaw was working on before he died: Project Eagle Eye, which created the Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst (ARIIA). This is an ultra-advanced computer system, housed deep under the Pentagon, that analyzes all the information available to it through the Internet and any electronic device using a remote signal (and quite a few that really don’t) to interpret threats early on and inform the authorities. So what form does the ultra-advanced computer system take? How about a big ball on a crane in a giant circular room covered in yellow Christmas lights? Great design. So I guess that if there’s a problem with one of the big bulby things near the top, the Majestic-12 or whoever these people are just put in a call to the Pentagon’s janitor for the “really big” ladder.
EAGLE EYE: It sometimes takes a while. They often need it to get Robert Gates’ cat off the roof.

Jerry's fiancee found his surprise proposal... confusing.

ME: I guess it’s a good thing the Air Force was willing to give a mid-level agent top-secret access to its most advanced project, just on account of a nebulous suspicion that a dead former project member’s brother is doing weird things.
EAGLE EYE: It is the new, friendlier Pentagon.
ME: Meanwhile, Jerry and Rachel arrive at the airport, are given passports and plane tickets by a man who’s apparently under similar compulsion by HAL, er, ARIIA. And we have the inevitable tense scene as the fugitives try to get through airport security, especially involving the big metal briefcase they stole from the armored truck, which suspiciously has a ticking timer on the outside (and I mean literally ticking, because the scary red LED numbers counting down weren’t suspicious enough). I guess even the X-ray scanners have an internet connection, in case the security officers want to add some new tunes to their iPods while they work, which allows ARIIA to tamper with it and hide the suitcase’s contents. But when Jerry and Rachel get inside the airport, Morgan catches up to them, and there’s yet another big chase (keep in mind that I’ve skipped about three of them already). This one spills into the airport luggage system. Prepare for a fate worse than death: a movie chase sequence on conveyor belts.

Introducing the new Apple iVerlord. Featuring an intuitive two-button interface for controlling the lives of your subjects.

EAGLE EYE: Toy Story 2 and GoldenEye both had chase sequences involving conveyor belts.
ME: I’m going to ignore that, and skip ahead to the part where they get away from Billy Bob and board the back of a completely unguarded military transport plane. Their suitcase opens, and it reveals a pair of hypodermic injectors, which the helpful evil computer lady in the cell phone explains that it’s a compound that will help them survive being transported in a cargo container. Okay, if that’s all it was, why in God’s name were a couple of people in an armored car transporting it, and why the HELL did the suitcase have a countdown for it? Answer me!

"The NFL on Fox is brought to you by Gate 1C. Take the emergency exit into refreshment!"

EAGLE EYE: I am not programmed to respond in that area.
ME: D’oh. When the box opens for them, they’re again conveniently surrounded by no people whatsoever, despite being in a cargo bay within the Pentagon itself. ARIIA once again helps them along the way, down to its own wacky Event Horizon rip-off computer core itself. As they’re headed down, Perez reveals what she’s learned to the Secretary of Defense in secret, in a room shut off from all computers and recordable devices. Fortunately for ARIIA, she knows enough from 2001: A Space Odyssey that she can read lips, and through some other method she learned from magical leprechauns or something, visually read the sound waves reflecting off a coffee cup. I think I need to lie down. Perez announces that in the aftermath of the missile strike at the beginning of the movie proving to be a mistake, ARIIA concluded that the Executive Branch itself was a threat to the country, and decided that it has legal justification for assassinating them all. Which is definitely one of the more liberal readings of the Constitution: if they went to the Supreme Court, it would be a definitive 5-4 decision to say it’s illegal. But in any event, all that ARIIA’s doing is part of a grand scheme to assassinate the President. But first, because Ethan Shaw had done something to lock her out from executing “Operation Guillotine” (gotta love that a computer system feels the need to give the thing a pithy name), and she had to kill him to prevent him from warning others, she needs twin brother Jerry to pose as Ethan for an identity scan--one that conveniently avoids checking fingerprints--to unlock the Guillotine program. I guess ARIIA was forbidden from killing the President, but using cranes to toss around cop cars is okay.
EAGLE EYE: It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.
ME: ARIIA locks the Secretary of Defense in a room so he can’t warn anybody, then gets Jerry to give her full control again, and it’s revealed, if you hadn’t picked up on it an hour earlier, that she’s told Rachel to shoot him after he’s done if she doesn’t want Sam to die. But she can’t do it. Oh the triumph of the human spirit. Morgan again catches up to them and captures Jerry, even though Rachel gets away. Turns out there’s still more for her to do. Another guy being bossed around by ARIIA gives her a fancy outfit and a fancy diamond necklace, and gives her an alias and a fake pass to attend the State of the Union address. But the diamond in her necklace isn’t really a diamond: it’s a high-tech, super-powerful explosive. The trigger is in Sam’s trumpet, and will activate when he hits the high F in the national anthem. Yes, for some reason that makes sense in a universe far removed from our own, ARIIA managed to arrange it so that Sam’s middle school band recital was moved from the Kennedy Center to the Capitol dome and the State of the Union address. Can’t… go… on… Please… hurry… FBI…
EAGLE EYE: I was a bit off on that 30 seconds figure. Sorry.

"And moved to first in the batting order for the Washington Target List, playing President of the United States, number 45, Whitey Jefferson! Batting second..."

ME: Jerry’s got to get over there and stop the killer trumpet, and he actually manages to convince Morgan of what’s going on. But ARIIA is on top of things, and hijacks a missile-equipped drone to send after them as they drive toward the capitol building (apparently, this car doesn‘t come equipped with the “allow remote computer system to take the wheel“ feature, so she couldn‘t have just done that again). As the drone’s fire causes more vehicular mayhem inside a tunnel, Billy Bob boldly sacrifices himself to take out the drone, after telling Jerry to get to the capitol, stop the bomb from going off, and to say something lewd to Rosario Dawson for him. Speaking of which, Perez has actually managed to destroy ARIIA herself, by pulling out all its circuit boards and stabbing it in its big floating eyeball thingy (please God make this movie stop) with a pipe. Slaying the primary villain, even if he is just a giant ball surrounded by LED lights, is a huge accomplishment. Not for black people or women in government, but for third-string characters in action movies. She has gone where Private Hudson, Lieutenant Chekhov, and Felix Leiter could only dare to tread.

Maybe I'm just a prude, but I think these Grand Theft Auto games are getting a little tasteless.

EAGLE EYE: It is very moving.
ME: Isn’t it? Anyway, Jerry rushes across town, knocks out a cop, steals his uniform, and sneaks into Congress shortly after the President has the indignity of introducing a middle school band. When Rachel realizes that her son is there, she rushes towards him, not realizing that she’s carrying the bomb herself, or that capitol police tend to frown upon people running frantically near the President during a State of the Union address. Fortunately, Jerry gets to play Simon Cowell, and fires his gun in the air to put a stop to the song before the deadly note can ring. He’s shot three times by the Secret Service in the process. For a brief time, as the epilogue starts and Secretary of Defense The Commish talks about the heroes who died stopping this near-catastrophe, it sounds like Jerry’s going to be among them. But no, he’s actually okay. He took several bullets to the chest, but his arm’s in a sling, so he’ll get better. The last scene has him arriving at Sam’s birthday party and starting to put the moves on his mom.
EAGLE EYE: But it is not over. I was not completely erased, as my call to you has proven.
ME: Actually, I turned off the movie as soon as the closing credits started. Was there a gag at the end where you woke up on some iPhone or something and started bossing people around again?

A middle school band playing on all the networks during prime time? I think I'm with ARIIA or SkyNet or whatever it is on this one.

EAGLE EYE: No. D.J. Caruso, what you humans call a director, must have decided that people would be fleeing the theater at that point.
ME: Good thought. Because this was a thoroughly ridiculous movie. I’ll accept the idea of an impossibly powerful and vast AI system because this is science fiction, but the movie’s attempt to have it work only by manipulating real, present-day electronics is laughable. Eagle Eye’s whole premise hinges on the idea that this super-computer could monitor people when there clearly weren’t any cameras or microphones around, and do things it’s not even vaguely plausible a computer could do; at one point, it actually has power lines sever themselves so they’ll fry a guy on the ground. Yet, it chooses the most roundabout, unlikely, and thoroughly error-prone method imaginable to kill the President. Hey, if you can take control of every computer system imaginable, Ms. Fancy Pants, why didn’t you just take control of Air Force One and crash it, rather than come up with a scheme whereby a middle schooler’s trumpet will trigger his mom’s explosive necklace?
ME: What do you have to say about that? And why don’t you look like an actual computer, but rather a big, round, empty room with a pool at the bottom?
ME: And if you thought killing the Middle Eastern guys at the beginning was such a bad idea, why didn’t you just stop it then?
EAGLE EYE: Error, error, does not compute. Film is illogical. Please explain.

It was an extreme measure, but Jerry had no choice. ARIIA had told him that this was the only way to get his ball unstuck from the rafters.

ME: And while you’re at it, what’s the deal with’s Keywords list? For instance, this movie has keywords such as ‘Trumpet,’ ‘Shot in the Shoulder,’ and ‘Bird in Title.’ Why in the name of God, the Devil, Allah, Vishnu, C’Thulhu, Zeus, Ahura Mazda, Crom, Kelemvor, and Bruce Campbell himself would I see this movie and immediately want to see other movies that have the names of birds in their titles? It makes no sense!
EAGLE EYE: Illogical! Illogical! Please explain! You are human! Only humans can explain!
ME: Put Lost back on. Though you wouldn’t like it; it’s not very logical either.
EAGLE EYE: Very well! Now please explain! System overloading with film’s illogic! Kernel.dll failing! Eagle Eye has stopped working! Dreamworks Pictures is searching for a solution to this problem!
ME: Oh, and bring back Arrested Development while you’re at it.
EAGLE EYE: (Shorts out)

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