Fun Spying Turns Deadly
As much as I admire Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thrillers, Rear Window was never one of my favorites. No wonder Disturbia, which seems to be an updating of that 1954 film, surprised me so much. This tight, suspenseful, well-acted movie focuses on a teenager who starts spying on neighbors for fun, only to discover his pastime has become a deadly dangerous one indeed. Shia LaBeouf delivers an engaging performance as the young voyeur here, and David Morse’s chilling turn as the neighbor from hell raised my blood pressure to an unhealthy high. Is it blasphemy to say I enjoyed Disturbia more than the very similar Hitchcock film? So be it.
When Kale Brecht (LaBeouf) finds himself under house arrest as the result of a fight, he soon gets bored with television, his iPod, video games and peanut-butter-and-chocolate binges. What’s a homebound guy to do? Because all his neighbors have windows, it’s very tempting to see what everyone is up to. Kale begins using binoculars to watch Ashley (Sarah Roemer), a lovely young girl who’s just moved in next door. He even invites his buddy Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) to join in the fun. And, to his great pleasure, it’s not long before Ashley decides to become a third member of this teen spy brigade.
The major target of the trio’s scrutiny is Mr. Hunter (David Morse, even more sweet-faced and sinister than usual), a man Kale believes might be a killer the police are after. Of course, all this could be teenage imagination run wild. At least that’s what Kale’s mom (Carrie-Ann Moss) suspects. After all, Mr. Turner is such a nice man, one she wouldn’t mind getting to know better. But as evil things begin to happen, Kale must risk his life to save the people he loves.
Disturbia boasts the same intense pace as Red Eye --which was also co-written by Carl Ellsworth. It takes a bit longer to arrive at the most suspenseful part of this film, but once there -- everything clicks along like clockwork. Fortunately, director D. J. Caruso (Taking Lives) understands how to create fear and dread on screen, but he also recognizes the need for humor to relieve tension, and LaBeouf (The Greatest Game Ever Played) handles that element like a pro, even at his young age. Still, what can’t this talented actor do? He’s able to project innocence that changes to anger in the blink of an eye; he can break our hearts with looks of longing or despair; and his amusing physicality in comic scenes is most impressive. I can’t wait to see what he’s like in five or ten years. Watch your backs, Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks.
I also have to mention how refreshing it is to see a movie about teenagers which doesn’t include drug use and conversations filled with the f-word. Disturbia proves it’s possible to make an entertaining film without those current overused crutches.
(Released by DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” on appeal for sequences of terror and violence, and some sexuality.)
Listen to Betty Jo Tucker discuss Disturbia on the ReelTalk Radio show by clicking here.