Director: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monoghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Billy BobThornton
UK Release date: 17 October 2008
Certificate: 12A (118 mins)
Last week The Guardian ran an article about the development of the internet. What we can expect is an “internet of things” wherein most of the physical objects with which we spend our days interacting will be assigned their own IP address, gifting them an existence in the nebulous world of the internet to complement their physical existence. Cows in Japan, for example, are already being implanted with wireless chips that give them an IP address in order that they can be tracked and recorded. Meanwhile, whilst our government is debating whether to carry forward the creation of the largest biometric database in the world, the Chinese city of Shenzhen is the laboratory for a surveillance system of 2 million CCTV cameras linked to a database of its residents: this means that the location of any of its citizens can be determined within minutes. It’s fertile ground for paranoia, and born from this comes Eagle Eye: a packed action film, its narrative silly and terrifying.
The film opens with a high-technology attack on a desert village: military hardware has quantified the probability of a terror suspect being present at a funeral and what looks like an Airfix model zooms overhead before obliterating the mourners in a flash of collateral damage. It’s frightening stuff because here is Hollywood taking, from the Real, material that is dramatic and tragic and without need of embellishment. We then leap to our Everyman, Jerry Shaw (Shia LeBeouf), receiving telephone calls from a voice that knows about the deliveries of explosives that arrived at his apartment that morning…
This voice has control over everything: mechanised cranes, metal crushing machines, traffic lights; it can read lips and understand conversation through the vibration of water. It’s the fantasy god stemming from the paranoia of surveillance: what if there was a consciousness that knew all our privacies, our movements; that could intervene however it wanted to further whatever ends it wished to reach? Faith in superstructures may have been rattled by the demolition of some of our financial systems, but what is clearer is how much we still believe and trust in such systems: how unprepared the majority of us would be to live if the structures of our hypermodern world let us down completely. For the makers of Eagle Eye, it’s a simple step to turn the invisible hand of the market into an invisible fist, smashing the human out of the way of destiny.
There’s not a whole lot of sophistication to Eagle Eye, despite the complexity of its machines. The story rapidly arcs into a love story between Jerry and America, with a few jabs at the current administration (e.g. bad foreign policy=domestic danger) and some intra-family issues being worked out by a healthy dose of explosions. Billy Bob Thornton adds some pleasure to the viewing as the paper-loving agent who helps unravel the mystery, but really the film should be judged favourably by its pace and tension: it doesn’t really matter any more that Brave New World and Space Odyssey: 2001 have been cut and pasted onto every step of Eagle Eye’s creation, because Artistic Integrity was one of those cranks you met at a party once who could hardly speak English, let alone American.
The film can provoke unsettling thoughts. It’s centred on the horror of what goes wrong within a system that is growing in scope, power and sophistication; what is unspoken is the shutter that technology can draw down in front of those on the outside of the system. Gated communities are only one visible sign of technology’s ability to enhance inequality: every traveller who has set off with her/his iPod and blotted out the monotonous sounds of lives pouring away into the cracks of economic desperation, or lay on a beach and wafted away hawkers of tat by plugging those white shields into their ears, is enjoying the view from inside the system. To fuel the flow of money we need upgrades, enhancements, anything to keep us purchasing; meanwhile, the quaint have-nots sit by the side of the road and watch the rest of us take photos.
As a contortion of contemporary life, Eagle Eye unnerves in its believable craziness. Let’s hope that the new 4GNanoFiberdeep photocommunicator has a ‘save the world’ button on it.
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