D.J. Caruso is the kind of director who can really make a movie lover miss vintage Brian De Palma. At least De Palma ripped off Hitchcock with some visual flair and conceptual perversity; with Caruso, it's all just so much inelegant, cold, incoherent excess. Watching Eagle Eye, it's as if some second-rate Michael Bay clone got it into his head that he was suddenly the Master of Suspense.
On the day of his brother's funeral, a man returns home to find his apartment overloaded with high-tech weaponry and all the makings for a massive bomb. His telephone rings, an unidentified female voice issues an ominous warning, and the chase is on. It's the kind of story on which Hitchcock built his career, and it may have actually been enjoyable had Caruso taken the care to inject it with a shot of personality or keep his camera focused on the action so some real tension could be built. An early car chase through the streets of Chicago has to be one of the most sloppy, carelessly frenzied joy rides ever taken on film. Sure it succeeds in keeping the viewer disoriented, but having your head rattled because the director decided not to lock down the camera and having your nerves wracked from the twists and turns of solid storytelling are two different reactions entirely -- they may both leave us shaken, but only one leaves us truly satisfied.
Likewise, Hitchcock was well known for casting suave, iconic male actors as his leads. As it stands here, Jimmy Stewart's and Cary Grant's decaying corpses have more combined charisma than Eagle Eye star Shia LaBeouf. Watching this manufactured Hollywood star go through the well-calculated motions of playing that archetypal everyman swept up in circumstances beyond his control isn't anywhere near as fun or interesting as watching a smart-dressed Grant outrunning a malevolent crop duster in North by Northwest or even a pajama-clad, wheelchair-bound Stewart snapping photos out his apartment window in Rear Window. It all adds up to a joyless, hi-tech hybrid of Colossus: The Forbin Project and The Man Who Knew Too Much that misses the mark at nearly every ear-achingly over-scored turn.
But are the constant comparisons to Hitchcock fair? Well, in the case of most modern thrillers, the legendary director's influence is readily apparent, but you can also see that the director is at least striving to do his or her own thing. Such is the case with someone like Spanish visionary Álex de la Iglesia, whose La Comunidad and Ferpect Crime combine influence and originality in a manner that's genuinely inspired. However, in the wake of a lawsuit against Caruso and his producers alleging that their previous film, Disturbia bears too much resemblance to Rear Window, and in light of the shamelessness with which the climax of Eagle Eye "borrows" from The Man Who Knew Too Much, Caruso and his team of writers (four to be exact, a figure that certainly comes through as the plot gets increasingly preposterous) seem to be openly inviting -- even goading -- the viewer to draw such comparisons. It's not necessarily for lack of interesting ideas either, but a simple failure to take those ideas in an interesting or original direction. It's as if Caruso took a Hitchcock screenplay, deleted all of the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, and simply hired his screenwriters to play movie Mad Libs. You're bound to get some stuff that'll make you crack a smile every now and then, but for the most part it's destined to come out a gibbering, nonsensical mess.