|INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)||
Understanding Surveillance Technologies:
Spy Devices, Privacy, History, & Applications (2007)
by J.K. Petersen
(Discounted Hardcover from Amazon)
What we appear to have here is a sci-fi escape and chase action flick starring a clone of HAL, the computer from "2001," and a couple of regular people who become its pawns in a mad plan to redo the American government in order to replace it with smarter people. We're warned early on that electronic surveillance has reached a state of advancement in which cell phones everywhere can be heard even when turned off. But that's just part of what's become possible in the digital age.
The political framework is established with a sequence in which Secretary of Defense (Michael Chiklis), in contact with the President, gives the order to bomb an ill-defined and IDed muslim group at a funeral. Retaliation is unleashed but with a couple of innocent civilians in New York at the front line.
The living room looks more like an armory than home, piled up with weapons, explosives, and forged documents. His anger and disbelief is interrupted by a phone call from an unknown woman who warns him to run in order to escape an FBI team arriving in thirty seconds. Hardly ready to respond to some wack job on the phone, he's immediately surrounded by agents, led by honcho Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) and Special Agent Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson, "Seven Pounds") of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
The woman on the phone contacts Jerry again and proves that she not only is constantly monitoring him but has remote control of all networked devices, including traffic lights, cell phones and automated cranes. Her constantly watchful eye is also on the fleet of cop cars chasing Jerry, and directs him through traffic and traps with split second accuracy. Once out of danger she joins him up with Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), a frantic single mother who is equally bound to do what the voice on the phone demands under threat that her young son, Sam, will be killed.
Sam, a tyke trumpet player, has been chosen for a young person's band that is going to wind up playing for the Congress of the United States during the President's State of the Union address--which is what makes him so valuable to the emotionless voice directing Jerry and Rachel. This disembodied presence is actually a top secret super-computer called ARIA, located deep within the Pentagon. It had been booted up when the President gave the order to bomb the Arab funeral party. Someone without a sense of proportion then tasked ARIA to replace the current administration for one that will be "better."
While Jerry and Rachel follow ARIA's instructions, it has a crystal explosive made into a necklace for Rachel to wear, and a sound-based trigger placed inside Sam's trumpet, tuned to high "F," corresponding to the word "free" in the last verse of the U.S. national anthem. For the perpetration of the program, the computer must subdue its human victims to its will and keep them ahead of law-enforcement in order to have them in attendance for the President' annual address. But these two intended puppets are wily enough to turn things against their tormenter and, even, learn why Ethan, Jerry's high-achieving bother, died.
Pure sci-fi, of course, but not labeled that way. Taken as reality, it's no wonder it's been widely panned and dismissed as too nonsensical to take seriously. Had it been promoted as sci-fi one wonders if it would have been perceived with more appreciation for its entertainment qualities. The far out premise, after all, easily fits into a comic strip framework which, when experienced by a viewer prepared to accept the incredible, might allow the enjoyment of exaggerated action and sympathetic characters being taken through a storm of dangers. What, you can't relate to someone being dominated by an omniscient machine?
Seen that way, with appropriately tense performances by the attractive pair caught up in the political whirlwind, high-paced action under the hand of director D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia" with LaBeouf), an exemplary supporting cast, an explosive sound track by Brian Tyler and solid production values, "Eagle Eye" delivers what it sets out to: a gripping race-against-time thriller that will keep you in your seat. That's where it held me, in rapt enjoyment.
~~ Jules Brenner