Tag Archives: Techno-Thriller

MOVIE REVIEW: Eagle Eye Combines Hi-Tech and SF to Create Effective Thriller!

Eagle Eye marks the fourth time Shia LeBeouf has worked on a Steven Spielberg production, and the second time that he’s worked with both Spielberg and director D.J. Caruso – and the triple team may well be turning into one of modern cinema’s most potent.

Labeouf & Monaghan

Eagle Eye is a techno-thriller that comes across as a twisted tale that might make Tom Clancy duck for cover. It opens with a missile launch intended to take out a major terrorist – a launch that is undertaken with only a 51% chance of the target being correctly identified. From there we move into the life of Jerry Shaw [LaBeouf], who seems to be a typical, ambition-free slacker, watching him at work as a “copy associate” for Kinko’s-like copy shop; fleecing a few friends in a poker game, and attending the funeral of his identical twin brother.

The next part of the film is pretty much what we got in the trailer: Jerry finding a lot of money in his account and a lot of weapons components in his living room: the warning call and his being taken in by the FBI – introducing us to Special Agent Thomas Morgan [Billy Bob Thornton] – and his escape by incredible means and ultimately, his teaming up with Rachel Holliman [Monaghan], whose participation in what follows is coerced by threats to her son. From there, we do, eventually, learn the identity of the mysterious female voice that can call them even from pay phones, or a cell phone belonging to the napping guy across from Shaw on a train.

Part of the reason that Eagle Eye works is that a lot of it [but not all, as you’ll see when you learn the identity of the mystery woman] is technically feasible right now. The film hooks us with what’s possible then draws into the realms of the definitely not yet real. The transition is smooth and the shocking reveal of the source of the voice, and the over-the-top plot that follows, zip by quickly enough that we buy them in the context of the film. The way all the various parts of the film connect may be a bit of a stretch, but the sheer fun of the film supersedes that.

LaBeouf does a good job as slacker Jerry; Thornton keeps Agent Morgan from being just another federal grunt, and Rosario Dawson simmers as an Air force investigator looking into the death of Jerry’s brother – though Monaghan is barely adequate as Rachel.

Michael Chiklis gets the role of the Secretary of Defence Callister – a role that leads everyone to the key plot point of the film: the identity of the mysterious female voice that hounds Jerry and Rachel – and the voice’s grandiose plans.

The special effects are very good and the CGI have enough weight that we buy them even if they are used to create something that is way over the edge of the possible. There may be a nod to societal commentary in the way that various devices [security cameras, traffic cameras and cell phones among them] are used to shred the duo’s privacy, but it’s a surface thing that comes as the by-product of a thriller that aims more toward entertaining than saying stuff.

Final Grade: B

DVD REVIEW: War Games: The Dead Code: Sleek Can Still Be Boring

War Games: The Dead Code is the straight-to-DVD sequel to the Cold War thriller starring Matthew Broderick as a teen computer whiz who almost starts World War III while under the mistaken impression that he’s playing a computer game. In The Dead Code, Matt Lanter is Will Farmer, a hacker who plays an online game called Ripley to win the money to go on a trip to Montreal with a girl [Annie D’Mateo, played by Amanda Walsh]. When his smartass best friend, Dennis [Nicholas Wright] up the ante while he’s not looking, Matt winds up catching the attention of the anti-terrorism computer program [R.I.P.L.E.Y. – voiced by Claudia Black] and being tagged as a potential terrorist.

Box Art

Unlike the threat of “Global Thermonuclear War” that powered the original, The Dead Code’s threat is bio-terrorism – and Will’s problems unfold because of odd coincidences – fixing his neighbor’s computer [and borrowing the stake for the online game] link him to a possible terrorist in the middle east, and because his mother works for a company that manufactures chemically-based household products [one failed attempt was for an odourless bleach], her unsuccessful prototypes making it seem like she is also a possible bio-terrorist.

The problem with The Dead Code is that Will’s situation spirals out of control so quickly – and on such flimsy evidence – that it strains credulity. Worse, Will’s pal, Dennis only exists for the express purpose of getting him into trouble and then making sure he stays there before vanishing from the proceedings. Then there’s the girl. Annie is going to Montreal to play in a chess tournament and doesn’t even know Will at the film’s beginning – and yet, she puts up with all sorts of crap because of him for no other reason than because he followed her to the French-Canadian city.

War Games: The Dead Code hits all its beats pretty much when it should as director Stuart Gillard tries to keep the action distracting us from the flimsiness of the plotting and lack of real characterization. What special effects there are, are used well, and solid performances from Colm Feore [Slings & Arrows] and Maxim Roy [ReGenesis], among others, are wasted here. Probably the movie’s only original moments are provided by the manner in which the original film’s Joshua Project factors into the proceedings.

Features include: Audio Commentary by Gillard and Lanter [boring] a Making Of Featurette, and a Production Stills Gallery [and no, trailers are not a bonus feature – they’re a marketing tool – unless they are the trailers for the actual film].

Grade: War Games: The Dead Code: D

Grade: Features: C-

Final Grade: D+