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Now and Then: Eagle Eye and Three Days of the Condor

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     Now: Eagle Eye (2008)
     Then: Three Days of the Condor (1975)
 
“If you want to live, you will obey.”
  “In the next seventy-two hours
  almost everyone he trusts
  will try to kill him.”

A mysterious plot hatched at the top but reaching down to the streets; an average Joe plunged into a paranoid nightmare with a beautiful stranger his only ally. D.J. Caruso’s new action-packed flick Eagle Eye may sound like a contemporary spin on Hitchcock but the posters, the plot and the casting evoke a much more modern thriller: Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor (1975). For all their similarities though, these two flicks also have major differences… meaning one of them works better. Now guess which?

On the Run From the Unknown
Eagle Eye sees Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan given a series of orders by an anonymous voice on their cell phones; Condor finds Robert Redford’s low-level CIA analyst coming back from lunch to find his office-mates dead. In Eagle Eye, the force driving the action is largely unseen; in Condor, we watch the killers shoot every living soul in the office. Eagle Eye may have an omnipotent villain but this shadowy force doesn’t have the immediacy of Redford’s unexpected threat. The ability to control every computerized gizmo and gadget in the world is one thing; a man with a gun in the same room as you are is something else…and somehow scarier.

Power Couples
Eagle Eye is being sold with splashy images of hot young things LaBeouf and Monaghan, but while the story often throws the two together, they’ve got no spark. Contrast that with the feral sexual energy of Redford and Dunaway who, because they’ve both been around the block, convey there’s always something on the line. There’s nothing as hot, sad and scared in all of Eagle Eye as this one Dunaway line to Redford: ” I don’t think I want to
know you very well. I don’t think you’re going to live much longer.”

The Cause of the Tension
Eagle Eye is loaded with spectacular stunts — car crashes, high-speed chases, and unmanned aerial drones firing missiles. Unfortunately, its big plot twist ends up making it all feel remote-controlled. Condor puts a world-weary assassin (Max von Sydow) on Redford’s trail which makes the stalking personalized. Eagle Eye jolts and jars you so you won’t notice when its crazy-complicated plot falls apart; Three Days of the Condor knows that all you really need to build excruciating tension is a gun and enough darkness.

The Verdict

Maybe it’s cliché to say that old movies are better than new ones, but in this case the cliche just might be justified. Eagle Eye is a flashy flick with all shakes and shimmies, but it doesn’t have any true suspense under the gritty gloss. Three Days of the Condor may reek of the ’70s, with its wide lapels and long sideburns, but what the movie lacks in the fashion department it makes up for with heart, heat and pacing.

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