Eagle Eye (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: BC-DC=C+
Budget: $80 million
Box Office: $176 million (101 U.S., 75 Intl.)

Written by: Dan McDermott and others, none of whom have done anything you’ve ever heard of.
Directed by: DJ Caruso (Disturbia, Two for the Money, Salton Sea, and some TV)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, and Michael Chiklis.

People are contacted by a mysterious stranger who seems to know everything and then gives them urgent and bizarre instructions to follow or else they will be killed.

Entertainment Value: B
This was decent, but not great. It wants to be the sequel (of sorts) to 1998’s outstanding Enemy of the State, but there are three problems: Shia LaBouef is no Will Smith, Billy Bob Thornton is no Gene Hackman, and DJ Caruso is certainly no Tony Scott. The plausibility factor becomes a limit here as a really intriguing plot concept starts to feel like Die Hard 18, the Most Impossiblest Die Hardestest Ever. That being said, it’s still quite good. I gave it a B, remember. One other problem, however, is that the set-up is almost so good that you can’t take the movie seriously until after you find out that there really is a viable explanation. But by then, they had already frustrated me by making the core concept seem unsolvable. You’ll want to be asking, “Why them?” and “Who has this much power?” And I can tell you that the film’s premise does work and answer both questions, even if that still leaves loads of feasibility problems. You’ll enjoy the movie better knowing this.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence C-, Language C-, Illegality C
Three women do shots in a bar. There is some discussion of sex and STD’s in the very beginning. But the real issues here are violence, PG-13 language, and illegality including theft, destruction of property, extortion, threats to children, and resisting arrest. These issues are constant throughout. Car chases, gunfights, people do get killed, and terrorist activities are the regular fare. This is definitely at the upper end of PG-13, although mostly without the sex element.

Significant Content: D
Anyone who would sacrifice innocent people as an acceptable cost in pursuit of a tactical military objective is immoral. People will do almost anything when something precious to them is in jeopardy. The principle of the Constitution condemn our own current administration. The ends justify the means. The higher good of restoring the country to its principles justifies the lower evils of murder and lying. Don’t entrust the fate of anything significant to computers. Surveillance technology is eliminating privacy and concentrating power in an unhealthy way.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
As an action film, this clearly works quite well. As an airtight plot, well, let’s just say it’s not. Yes, as I said before, the big questions all get answered, but after that you’re left wondering why any of this movie would occur at all. For instance, if the voice can control an F-16 to make the pilot eject, why not just control the plane (or any others) to accomplish her purpose? And, given what she needs from Jerry, why put him in an impossibly tense situation in the beginning which had to allow him to get arrested? Certainly, better plans were available. Nonetheless, the movie does have some interesting things to say about ultimate values and ethics.

Discussion Questions:
~This movie is largely about the question of ultimate values and the violation of lesser values in the achievement of them. Discussing the four main characters, identify what value or values each one considers ultimate and what other values they are thus willing to violate. What does each character “worship,” so to speak? What forms of leverage are used against each of them?
~What happens when anyone is willing to make the ends justify the means absolutely?
~How is the woman like and unlike the voice of God? Consider her ability to take decisions and accommodate her plans to changing facts.
~Do you agree with the woman’s assessment of America based upon the Constitution? Is the woman any better morally than the very people she is trying to destroy? How has she become just like them in her effort to destroy them for being that way? Is this the message of the movie? That America has become its enemies by being willing to sacrifice some innocents? Is this a movie advocating moral equivalence?
~When movies address themes like this, do they encourage conversation or do they stifle it by taking such an overpowering position? Are movies that manipulate emotion to push a dogmatically anti-totalitarian message guilty of their own version of artistic totalitarianism? Is it fair to say that some filmmakers refuse to trust their audiences in much the same way that they complain authoritarian political leaders refuse to trust their citizens?
~Consider this entire movie as a con game, where the where the players have made successively more gradual investments in doing what they’re told and have begun to do more and more unacceptable things. At what point should they have quit? What would have happened if they hadn’t? Why are people to throw good money, time, and actions after bad ones once they’ve become invested?
~Obviously the technological capabilities shown in this movie are science fiction impossible right now, but many people worry that we are heading in this direction. Are you worried about this?
Overall Grade: B-/C+
I expected this to be like Michael Douglas’s The Game, but it wasn’t at all. Nonetheless, it was fine, albeit pretty silly.

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