An attempted carbon copy of a handful of successful thrillers that fails to hide the films it so wants to emulate.
An attempted carbon copy of a handful of successful thrillers.
There is an unfortunate paradigm in mainstream cinema where two films
will go into production at the same time and have almost the exact same
plot. What this means is that one, inevitably, falls by the wayside.
Think Deep Impact to Armageddon, Antz to A Bug’s Life or Volcano to Dante’s Peak. Echelon Conspiracy is the David to Eagle Eye’s Goliath and as such it never stood a chance, the crucial thing here is that it was never deserving of one.
Max Peterson (West) is a computer security expert (think that
might come in handy?) who is given a phone that leads him to untold
fortunes. Unable to trace the text messages guiding him to all this
money he finds himself trying to track them down, well you wouldn’t just
be grateful for all the free money would you? However, he is not the
only one as he discovers the head of Casino security John Reed (Burns) wants to know how Max is beating the house. More importantly CIA honcho Burke (Sheen) has dispatched Agent Grant (Rhames) to find Peterson and find out what he knows about Echelon, a system that monitors all communications on the planet.
It is ironic that Eagle Eye, the film Echelon wants to be, was not
exactly a stellar hit. Although at least that film had an element of
suspense combined with fun action to get you vaguely interested. The
problem is that if you have seen that film, even if you haven’t for that
matter, there is little in Echelon that is not horribly predictable.
Furthermore, it spends much of its time pillaging from other films. A
sex scene is clearly stolen from Steven Soderbergh’s seductive Out Of Sight, and not to good effect. Most of the action is an attempt to re-capture the Bourne films but lacks the energy and fluency of Paul Greengrass’ work. And the ending is all too reminiscent of I, Robot’s
computer negotiating tactics. To sit through a highlight reel of the
best bits in cinema of the past decade is one thing, to watch a film
shamelessly steal them is unforgivable.
Much of this is down to a clunky script that tries to hide its flaws behind glamorous European locations. Director Marcks
finds some moments to flourish in the action stakes but some dodgy
editing techniques do not hide the desperate lack of coverage.
The cast, on paper at least, is impressive. The problem is that most of them look like they are there for the pay cheque. Ving Rhames has had a very inconsistent career, mixing the likes of Pulp Fiction
with fairly poor horror outings. Here he is playing a moody CIA
operative who never seems to bothered by any outcome. Even in the big
finale Rhames never acts as though he is in any real jeopardy, if he
doesn’t believe it how are we supposed to? Ed Burns looks embarrassed to be speaking half the lines expected of him. Shane West, who had highs in ER and serious lows in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen,
spends the film in a permanent state of over acting. He is not aided by
the fact his character is a passenger for most of the film and his
constant head bobbing is more reminiscent of a crazed chicken than a
The point of a thriller is to plant questions in the audience’s mind,
the end should answer those questions with maybe a fun twist thrown in
for good measure. Echelon Conspiracy does none of the above and so
come the finale feels like a damp squid depressingly floundering on the
beach. More Hollywood Conspiracy to steal than anything else.