At one glance, it's easy to dismiss Echelon Conspiracy as yet another Eagle Eye wannabe. Face it, it has a man who receives mysterious and anonymous instructions, being on the run from authorities, and constantly getting put into various lines of fire. Only that despite its plot loopholes and common ground factors, this B-grade movie is a lot more fun than the big budgeted action thriller from last year, and Shane West being a lot less irritating that Shia LaBeouf.
West (the only other recent film I saw him in was Red Sands) plays a computer engineer Max Peterson, who while in Bangkok for a job assignment, receives a mysterious DHL (thank you product placement) package which contains a state of the art mobile phone (I want one!), seemingly bundled with real time information which provided him a Final Destination moment, and insider trader information. He doesn't know who's tipping him off, but like every ordinary Joe out there, nobody's rejecting money-spinning messages once the results have been verified.
Which brings him to Prague and Moscow and back to the USA in a semi-global wild goose chase in order not to look cheap, first by Ed Burns' John Reed, an ex-FBI agent now working for a conglomerate whose casino Max tries to fleece from, then from Ving Rhames' Agent Dave Grant, under orders from NSA chief Raymond Burke who has higher orders to allow Dave to work outside of the country (yep, that's unbelievable loophole #1 if you wish). In any case it's a reluctant cat-and-mouse chase of sorts and cooperation in others as the trio play at this dangerous cloak-and-dagger in trying to find out who the source of instructional messages that have caused the lives of the recipients. No prizes to be won after you sit through some 20 minutes of the film actually.
There's plenty of slime thrown at the Bush Administration by writers Kevin Elders and Michael Nitsberg, aiming the gunsight of their story squarely at the Patriot Act, and the playing of the trading of freedom for big brother type of surveillance, which is lengendary of the NSA. Perhaps there's too much credit here given for being able to come up with THE ultimate supercomputer able to crunch facts and numbers, to be the tool of choice when tapping into just about every telecommunications device in the world to churn out threat reports. A little science-fiction thrown in of course, with big assumptions that everything is connected on the world wide grid, and coupled with an ending that would astonish non-techies, but a comedy to nerds.
Recognizable names such as Burns, Rhames, Sheen and even Jonathan Pryce lend some gravitas into a slightly-above average thriller, which if you put aside the implausibles, actually is of some fun. Shane West though makes a good alternative to the over-exposed Shia LaBeouf, and hopefully we get to see opportunities presented to him to step up into more mainstream, big-budgeted action roles, because frankly, today's Hollywood cinema needs a new It boy to be doing all the running, rather than going back to the same old name currently.
I just cannot stop laughing at the lack of ingenuity of the filmmakers of having the BBC news channel spoofed as CCD (C'mon, can you be a little more creative than this?) with similar colour schemes employed, and an English accent too. Echelon Conspiracy isn't going to win over any fans, but it was fun while it lasted. Just check your logic at the door.