Does the Plot to Eagle Eye Make Any Sense?

Speaking of long stories people shouldn’t subjected to, Eagle Eye came out in theaters on Friday. Let’s just say, the Logic Nazi on this project really screwed the pooch.
By  · Published on September 28th, 2008

Editor’s Note: This article does contain spoilers from the plot of Eagle Eye. If you have not seen the film, you may not want to read any further.

I don’t like to mince words. The last time I did, I ended up stubbing a toe. It’s a long story that I don’t want to subject you to, but speaking of long stories people shouldn’t subjected to, Eagle Eye came out in theaters on Friday. Let’s just say, the Logic Nazi on this project really screwed the pooch.

It seems obvious to chalk up my strong dislike of this movie to my knowledge of how government works, but it’s even easier to claim my ability to read at a 5th grade level is what kept me from enjoying the inane plot structure and borrowed-from-other-films concepts. More so than most movies recently, Eagle Eye has left me with some Unanswered Questions.

1. Why were the band children traveling by train?

It’s crucial to the plot. Rachel needs the threat of her son’s train getting derailed to goad her into performing highly illegal tasks for a disembodied voice. From boarding the train from Chicago to the time when Jerry and Rachel are embroiled in the climax in DC is around two full days. Rachel’s precious little trumpet player hops on the train in the morning and the next night, he’s performing at the State of the Union Address. Of course, it doesn’t take two days to get Chicago to DC by train. I’ll give you 15 hours at a minimum, 30 hours at a ludicrous maximum. Either that, or they got the cheapest tickets ever. And those tickets were probably still the same price as air fare.

Why were they on the longest train ride possible? Doesn’t that school district have any money? This couldn’t have just been a device that pushed the boundaries of reality in order to serve the plot right? Did the train stop in Nashville to pick up some Barbecue? Didn’t the band director seem a little like a child-toucher? Not a lot, but, like, just a little? Would you trust your child to go on a magical two-day train ride with him?

2. Why didn’t Rachel just go to the cops?

I know what you’re thinking. It was too dangerous! The scary disembodied voice on the other end of the phone stopped her from calling 911! If it can stop a phone call, what else could it do?! Guess what. Cops don’t just exist on the other end of telephone lines. They’re living, breathing humans that exist in buildings, and they’re accessible pretty much all the time. Granted, seeing video of your son displayed on televisions inside a McDonald’s is pretty creepy, but stealing a car, picking up a stranger and continuing on with a whole host of byzantine tasks just doesn’t sound right. Hell, she could have told the security guards they hijacked instead of, you know, hijacking them. Way too easy? Thought so.

If she thought her son was in danger, why not just find a cop? Why go on a crazed game of Simon-Says with an unnamed voice who hasn’t shown any proof of being capable of killing your son? Why acquiesce so quickly? Don’t you have to be a complete idiot not to try just a little harder to find an authority figure?

3. Do people actually think a computer can kill you remotely?

This has to be asked since it goes along with the last question. The entire film hinges on the fear that the massive Big-Brother computer system can kill us no matter where we are. This is absolutely ridiculous. I share Chuck Klosterman’s lack of fear of my toaster, but I understand the threat of ubiquitous technology. Still, the scene where the music shop owner gets killed is probably the least believable thing I’ve seen all year, especially considering that had he run about twenty feet to the right or left, he’d be completely untouchable. Jerry and Rachel had to be the dumbest people on the planet to believe a computer could kill them remotely.

How did a computer cut hardware lines to kill that guy? Electrical lines don’t just snap off by issuing a line of code do they? DId no one think to utilize outmoded technology to bypass the computer mainframe’s reach? Wait, can my toaster kill me? Will it committing murder void the warranty?

4. Why would a computer choose the most convoluted way possible to kill people?

Let’s face it. This film is like a cinematic game of Mouse Trap and, much like me with a game of Mouse Trap, it could never quite get that guy to dive from the see-saw and land in the dish. Um, metaphorically. In essence, the filmmakers are asking us to believe that a computer that’s based on a stringent – albeit complex – string of logic would create a multi-tiered, 30-component, human-error-prone, two-day process of killing a few people. This is absurd to the point of forehead slapping.

It can kill a guy on command by snapping some electrical lines but it can’t just take ten other people? Couldn’t have sent some highly trained Toaster Assassins? Aren’t high-level executives near powerlines or in cars that can be hit by other cars from time to time? Was the computer designed by Rube Goldberg? Isn’t that guy dead? Did Zombie Rube Goldberg doom the nation?

5. Were we in the future or something?

It’s never really stated. Maybe it’s on someone’s ID card or driver’s license for a split second, but it seemed like present day to me. Oddly enough, people are now debating whether the technology that exists in the film could be possible in the future. Guess what. It already is. The funniest part about this is that all the technology in the film that’s possible is presented so poorly that it seems more science fiction than current fact. Remote monitoring from cell phones? Sure. Complete grid control? Mostly possible. But the elements that aren’t possible blending with the stuff that is was so confusing that I thought a nice sign of what the date was could cure a lot of the ills.

Why wasn’t it clear what time it was? And if it was in the future, why did it look so much like 2005? Why were all the television news reports so generic?

What Have We Learned

I have a ton of other random questions that don’t really affect the plot. What was that piece of paper Jerry put in his brother’s casket? A sketch? The number of a hot angel he knows? Was it supposed to have emotional significance? What would the computer done if Jerry and his brother weren’t twins? Why don’t we learn it’s the eve of the State of the Union until five minutes before it’s delivered? Why did Rachel and Jerry keep having the same damned conversation about his brother over and over again? Why the hell did they end up together romantically at the end? If the Computer was destroyed, why did we keep seeing screenshots of the musical notes? Why did Jerry’s brother leave his post without telling a superior of the MAJOR THREAT posed by the out-of-control computer system? He leaves a cryptic morse code message and then hops in his car to drive on home?

All this to say, mostly everything is done so randomly and haphazardly in this film that’s it became ridiculous. Small details that didn’t matter were left in unexplained while large details were revealed exactly when they mattered instead of naturally. Unfortunately, until the government taps into our cell phones and explains exactly what was going on, these questions and more are going to have to go unanswered.

What did you make of the plot of Eagle Eye?

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.