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dir DJ Caruso
scr John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz, Dan McDermott
with Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Anthony Mackie, Ethan Embry, William Sadler, Cameron Boyce, Anthony Azizi, Lynn Cohen, Bill Smitrovich
release US 26.Sep.08, UK 17.Oct.08
08/US DreamWorks 1h58
"You have been activated": Labeouf and Monaghan
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Energetic and exciting, this action thriller keeps our attention all the way through, even as the plot gets increasingly preposterous. To cover this up, filmmaker Caruso ramps up the chaos but loses the characters in the process.
Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) has defied pressure from his father (Sadler) and taken an unambitious path through life. So he's badly shaken when his high-achieving twin dies in an accident. But before he can return to his quiet life, he and a stranger (Monaghan) are propelled into a vortex of mayhem by the telephone voice of a mysterious woman who seems to control every computer network in America. Soon they has two tenacious Feds (Thornton and Dawson) on his tail, believing he's a terrorist. And they're headed for a climax on Capitol Hill.
After a couple of set-up scenes, the film kicks into high gear, throwing its characters into frantic car chases and bone-rattling escapes that are all manipulated by this unseen puppet-master, from the streets of Chicago to the depths of the Pentagon. While it's a genuine adrenaline rush, there's nothing really holding it together. The dialog is a string of macho jingo that sounds as if it was written by a fanboy trying to be cool. And the action scenes are all crash-bang-wallop without any coherence; we just wait to see who gets out of each set piece alive.
Not that we have any doubts. Underneath the stylish pandemonium, the story isn't exactly rocket science. Essentially, it's the same plot as 1983's WarGames, plus echoes of Wanted's reluctant action hero and 2001's red-eyed computer. And even though the script tries for moments of political resonance and deep emotion, the characters are so superficial that it comes across as sappy and strained.
That said, LaBeouf and Monaghan make likeable heroes we can identify with as they're forced into this mad, fantastical adventure. Dawson is snappy and tough, while Thornton clearly rewrote his lines to make them more snarky and engaging. Yet while the premise is great fun (and clearly gave the writers a godlike thrill), the plot feels like a cheat, barely holding together to the end while never pausing for breath. Fun while it lasts, but instantly forgettable.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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