Hit the road, Shia: He's the latest wrong man

Uh-oh, the projectionist has put the wrong film on. Those two boys running playfully over the Afghan hills - it's The Kite Runner, right?

Wrong. It's the opening scene of Eagle Eye, and those kids are toast. Analysts at the Pentagon back in Washington are tracking a suspected terrorist via satellite - a bin Laden-type who's emerged from his cave to (1) check out a weapons cache, or (2) attend a funeral.

The guys at Command Center aren't sure which, but the president goes ahead and orders the smart bombs anyway. In mere minutes, thanks to a triangulating network of aerial cameras, drone planes and intelligence computer data, the town someplace near Kabul goes kaboom.

And Eagle Eye heads back to the States for the duration.

Another wrong man, and wrong woman, on-the-run action thriller with a political message and a warehouse worth of high-tech gadgetry, Eagle Eye wants to be Marathon Man, or Enemy of the State, only with a post-9/11 overlay and a plot device lifted straight from 2001: A Space Odyssey. (No spoilers here, but anyone remember the usurping HAL?)

Shia LeBeouf, fresh from fleeing Harrison Ford's fedora in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and fleeing extraterrestrial robots in Transformers, stars as Jerry Shaw, a 23-year-old Stanford dropout (he's smart! he's adrift!) returned to hometown Chicago. When Jerry's identical twin brother, who did something mysterious in the Air Force, dies, Jerry, who works at a copy store, suddenly finds himself on the run - yes, fleeing! - when the FBI swoops down and pegs him as a terrorist.

Across town, Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is a single mom who has just put her young son on a train to D.C. - he's the trumpeter in a school band set to play at the Kennedy Center. Next thing she knows, there's a woman on her cell telling Rachel to get in a Porsche Cayenne and drive, or else her boy's a goner.

And the next thing she knows, this slacker dude with a scraggly beard has climbed into the passenger seat. Jerry's a total stranger to Rachel, but he's been getting these weird calls from a woman on his cell phone, too, telling him what to do.

Long ago a project that Steven Spielberg planned to direct, Eagle Eye has been inherited by D.J. Caruso (he steered LeBeouf through Disturbia, that nifty Rear Window Jr.). With a bunch of big action set-pieces and a cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton (FBI guy), Rosario Dawson (Air Force intel), Michael Chiklis (secretary of defense), and the disembodied voice of Julianne Moore (disembodied voice), the movie makes next to no sense plotwise.

Why Jerry? Why Rachel? Who's the desperate foreign dude who stole her son's trumpet?

What Eagle Eye wants to do is show us technology's dark side: all the stuff that's there to make our lives easier - ATMs, PDAs, iPods, GPS, cell phones, PCs, "smart" houses - turned against us in a vast conspiracy.

A vast conspiracy to do what? you ask. A vast conspiracy to get Shia LeBeouf fleeing across the screen, delivering his lines on the run, an out-of-control tractor-trailer bearing down fast behind him.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.


Eagle Eye

Directed by D.J. Caruso. With Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Shia LaBeouf, Billy Bob Thornton. Distributed by Paramount Studios.

Running time: 1 hours, 58 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language).