Eagle Eye is a film in which Shia LaBoeuf runs away from things a lot. That's pretty much all you need to know about it. It's based on the interesting-but-all-too-familiar concept of a supercomputer becoming smart enough to question why it needs to follow orders (give Kubrick a wave, kids!). HAL 9000's girlfriend, also known as ARIIA, is equipped with that cool, emotionless, annoyingly composed female voice you hear telling you that this number is currently unavailable. She - it? - needs Jerry Shaw (LaBoeuf)'s DNA in order to make it - her? - self undeactivatable because his recently-deceased twin brother Ethan is the only other person who could do it (is it just me, or does this convenient-twin thing foreshadow Avatar? I'm sure Eagle Eye is not the first film to use this device - but I digress). The process of getting to the computer in the middle of the Pentagon leads to plenty of chasing - on foot, in vehicles, you name it - which is, of course, the real reason why the movie was made. It isn't high art, and there's an above-average number of plot holes (even by summer blockbuster standards), but you could do a lot worse looking for a couple hours of solid entertainment.
Eagle Eye seems like the sort of film that would have a Media Ventures graduate at the composing helm - after all, the last time we saw Shia LaBoeuf running away from things a lot, it was to the tonally pleasing but blatantly unoriginal pseudo-Hans Zimmer sounds of Steve Jablonsky's Transformers score. Instead, one of the past decade's most promising young talents was given the chance to exhibit the growing reputation he was gradually building for himself as a new king of action music (taking over from Jerry Goldsmith - literally, in the case of Timeline ): Brian Tyler. And that's a crown that Tyler deserves to wear proudly, because Eagle Eye is absolutely phenomenal.
A word of caution before I begin extolling virtues: this score isn't phenomenal via its stunning originality. It won't blow you away by taking a radically new approach. Indeed, it takes inspiration from several sources - among them Hans Zimmer's Crimson Tide, Trevor Rabin's Armageddon, John Powell's Bourne scores and even, at its densest moments, Don Davis' Matrix trilogy. What makes Eagle Eye so great is the fact that it takes those influences, puts them through Tyler's own prism of aggressively rhythmic and percussive action music and emerges on the other side as better than all of them (at least, from an enjoyability perspective).
Take, for instance, the score's two major recurring motifs. Stated in succession at the one-minute mark of the first track, they resemble Crimson Tide and Armageddon respectively. But the dynamic bed of percussion (always an extremely satisfying aspect of any Tyler action score) and ultra-cool bass string ostinato make these statements so enjoyable that their derivative nature is entirely forgivable - indeed, I definitely prefer the Armageddon theme here, and even the Crimson Tide motif is presented in such a ballsy way (on live brass, unlike the original) that I daresay I like this incarnation more than Zimmer's (despite that 1995 score's seminal status).
Tyler remains loyal to the Armageddon-esque theme, and it is subjected to quite a lot of development (a heck of a lot more than Rabin ever got out of it, that's for sure). Most flat-out cool (and least Armageddon-like) is its bold, power-horns action variant over a thick but not overwhelming bed of percussion (most of which played by Tyler himself!). In this incarnation, each of the motif's two phrases ends on a three-note turn that is possibly the most awesome action motif I have ever heard (check out 1:35 of 'Eagle Eye' or 1:54 of 'Clutch Then Shift' among others). It also serves well in more sensitive guises, such as the attractive solo piano of 'Ariia' and 'Loss of a Twin'. Tyler's most blatant Armageddon moment comes during the last minute of 'Honor', where the theme even helps itself to some of the Rabin score's pulsating string rhythms - it's a stirring and emotional cue nonetheless, with moving string dramatics and a solo trumpet evoking Tyler's work on Rambo earlier the same year. Finally, Tyler introduces soft rock tones to the theme for the 'End Titles' - which he does extremely tastefully (indeed, all the electronics in Eagle Eye are balanced with the orchestra in an exemplary fashion, adding just the right amount of contemporary coolness), and it's a nice way to finish the album.
A word about that album. A lot of people seem to complain about the extremely lengthy albums that tend to present Brian Tyler's action scores. I honestly cannot understand such complaints. I would much rather have 'too much' of a score than too little. Besides, if it bothers you, you can always rearrange the album and cut out the parts you consider unnecessary. Very little of Eagle Eye is unnecessary, to me (other than the 'Main Titles', which are very similar to 'Clutch Then Shift'). Despite the tone being consistent throughout, there's enough variation, enough sheer aggression and energy, to keep things interesting and entertaining throughout.
Even a score as strong as these will have cues that are better than others. Probably Eagle Eye's weakest cue is 'Copyboy', which pushes the contemporary tone over into grungy, atmospheric regions. Some of the cues immediately following, from 'Special Delivery' through to 'Operation Guillotine', don't really do that much either (although even they contain strong moments, like the snare-ripping statement of the main theme at the end of 'Hidden Message'). These minor issues, however, are piddles compared to the absolutely incredible action music.
I've saved talking about this, Eagle Eye's most defining aspect, for last, because that's what you generally do with the best - and believe me when I say Eagle Eye's action music is THE BEST. Throughout 'Main Titles', 'Final Manipulations', 'Escape', 'Ladders', 'The Case', 'Potus 111' and the mindboggling, stupefying 'Clutch Then Shift', Tyler puts the orchestra through some of the most relentless, fast-paced, percussive, aggressive, energetic orchestral music you will ever hear in your life. And it remains listenable throughout, mainly because of its loyalty to the main theme and a handful of other recurring action motifs. When it does resort to dissonance, the results are often so over-the-top it's entertaining in its own right (the fierce glissandos and seemingly wanton cymbal crashing at 4:50 of 'Clutch Then Shift' are astounding), and there's certainly less unpleasant interruption here than in, say, AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem or Darkness Falls. For the most part, and especially in 'Clutch Then Shift', the action music has real flow, structure and cohesion to go along with the adrenaline. If you ever feel the compulsion to go jogging to film music, Eagle Eye is the place to turn - it was, after all, written for a film involving a lot of running!
If I were a purely objective reviewer - and such things don't exist, so obviously I can't be - I probably wouldn't be 'allowed' to give this score a perfect rating. I could point to three things that could be a major issue for some collectors: its derivative nature, its lengthy album and its lack of serious variation. For me, none of these matter. The first doesn't matter because Eagle Eye doesn't really borrow - it adapts and improves on its influences. The second doesn't matter because I enjoy pretty much every minute of Eagle Eye, and I'm glad there's so much of it - even if I didn't, you can always program iTunes to just play your favorite tracks. And the third doesn't matter; in fact, to me, it's one of the score's pluses. I'm an absolute action music junkie and while some might feel clobbered over the head by relentless bombast, I drink it in - especially when its bombast so well-orchestrated and energetically-performed as this. This is the best chase score of the decade - unhesitatingly recommended to anybody with a pulse.