I’ve talked in the past about how I constantly critique movies as I’m watching them, and previously I attributed it to feminist anxiety, but I’m beginning to suspect it was also partially boredom. I’ve been consuming a shit-ton of movies this year, to get a big enough sample size to pick apart how they work, and well, it was successful; almost all movies are at least somewhat predictable. I tend to play my predict-what’s-next-game with a quarter of my brain, do my feminist critique with another quarter, and actually watch the movie with the remaining half.
But not Eagle Eye! Nope, this time around, I was too engaged in the what-the-hell-is-next part to even consider feminist issues! I think it did pretty well in that regard as well, but that’s another post for another day. Today: gushing with unbridled enthusiasm!
Spoilers after the cut.
This is a movie that really surprised me. The concept isn’t anything I haven’t seen a million times before in sci fi– computer mastermind manipulates everything digital in order to take over the world!– but it was executed very cleverly. I liked all the many different ways that Aria got in contact with Jerry– stranger’s phones, signs, televisions, everything!– and I liked that she mostly didn’t do things that were completely impossible (at one point she snaps some power cables, which I wasn’t aware could be done digitally, but the rest was at least theoretically plausible.)
But more than that, I liked the way that the movie just kept surprising me. The best surprises:
Jerry doesn’t obey the phone voice right away. He keeps trying to break free of her control in big and little ways throughout the movie (though he gets a little more compliant after she kills a guy with the afore-mentioned power lines, which apparently had a self-destruct mechanism installed).
To break Jerry out of his high-security prison, she arranges for him to get a phone call in a window office, then smashes the window with a freakin’ crane! It was awesome; she just said, “you have five seconds to lie flat on the floor” and as he waffles about following the instructions we see this big mechanical thing looming in the window, and then SMASH! And then, of course, the digital signs telling him to jump… with nothing at the bottom to catch him! Apparently, she just calculated that he’d probably survive.
The briefcase they stole, with the timer. First off, their dialogue was hilarious–
Rachel: Why does it have a timer?
Jerry: I don’t know! The only things I know that have timers are microwaves and…
Rachel (whispering): Bombs. You think it’s a bomb?!
Jerry: No, I mean, well, coffee machines have timers too…
Rachel: Yeah, Jerry, it’s a coffee machine.
But you know the best part? It’s not a bomb. It’s not a coffee machine either (that would have been awesome, though!) but it’s not a bomb! It’s just a briefcase that pops open when the time hits zero. Isn’t that awesome? I mean, when the countdown hit five seconds and they were trapped with it, I knew it wouldn’t detonate, but I had no idea what it could be if it wasn’t a bomb. Frankly, they did a good job with the bomb lead-up, so they probably could have pulled off a traditional bomb– but it was just so much better and more interesting to have it not be a bomb, not to mention the fact that fancy heart medicine made a lot more sense for the story.
I thought it was pretty obvious that Jerry’s brother wasn’t a terrorist– that’s sort of how these things go; no terrorists in semi-sympathetic light– but I did really enjoy the scene where we got our proof. For one, noticing the morse code was fun (though I thought it was silly of the major to insist upon seeing the rest even after he’d gotten FIRE EXSTINGU– how did he think it was going to end?) but I also really appreciated the fact that here were two black people, figuring out the important techie stuff and taking down the computer. I was happy enough having them as set decoration, but as plot-important characters? Kick-ass!
Similarly, when they both fell into the Sciencey Liquid, I figured they were both goners for sure. The black folks always die first, after all. But no! Zoe Perez (the black woman) just pulls Major William Bowman (the black man) out of the water, hangs on to his unconscious body, and stabs the supercomputer right in the eye! Yeah! Kick-ass! There were sparks flying, and the look on her face– I was grinning like an idiot! It was one of the best surprises.
Also a surprise: the old white guy died first, and was actually the only one to die. Yup, they had two black people in near-death situations, but they were fine, but then they had a rich old white guy in a “regular” (for this movie) car crash, and his trauma’s so severe that he gives up and has to settle for a helpful death. It wasn’t as overwhelmingly joyful, but I was still surprised to find that he wasn’t immune.
It also took me by surprise for a moment when the computer died and it wasn’t all over. Oops! Her plan had progressed so far, it was going to carry itself out without any more of her guidance! (Zoe’s kick-assery wasn’t movie-ending levels of kick-ass, but still not bad for a secondary character.) And seeing poor Rachel and her son just bringing the two halves of the bomb closer and closer to the big boom…it was tense!
And I was really impressed with how Jerry chose to stop the bomb. I expected him to try to yell, or something, the way Rachel was trying to, but no! He climbed up on one of the desks, and fired at the ceiling. I was so, so impressed, because, of course, then they started to shoot at him, but he just kept shooting…it was a good plan, but it took guts. THe thing is, if you try to yell and make a ruckus, security will try to shuffle you out and continue the ceremony as usual; but if you start shooting, they’ll drop the ceremony right away and try to shuffle out everyone else. The only reason to do it the yelling way is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get shot in the head if you do it the shooting way.
I’m a tiny bit disappointed that Jerry did, in fact, live (I mean, that’s some stunningly bad security– they should’ve shot him eight times in the chest just to make sure, he was that close to taking out the top 15 people in our government’s chain of command) but I do understand why the movie didn’t want to end with another funeral. They lingered an appropriately long time on his body, so we could think “How sad! But also awesome! I’ve never seen anyone do that before, but wow, does it work, and wow, does it ever take guts.” But then they bring him back (in a piddly arm sling) and give him a medal so the movie doesn’t have to be a downer.
But even though they didn’t go for the gutsier (but sadder) ending, they still managed to surprise me in the last few minutes: I’d called some Jerry/Rachel make-outs in the first scene that they met, and Jerry does indeed show up for her son’s birthday (which her ex-husband forgot) but they don’t make out. She gives him one grateful kiss on the cheek, and they give each other dopey smiles. I liked it. It felt a lot more true to their actual relationship; they’d bonded, for sure, but it wasn’t romantic. It’s the kind of closeness that occurs between soldiers, not between lovers. Usually, Hollywood will conflate the two to give us our big kissy happy ending, but Eagle Eye did not.
All in all, I’m impressed. And I kind of want to watch it again.