cast: Shia LeBeouf, David Morse, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sarah Roemer, and Aaron Yoo
director: D.J. Caruso
104 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Paramount DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Kale Brecht (Shia LeBeouf)’s life fell apart when his father died. A model student until the death of his father (the excellent Matt Craven in a cameo), Kale’s behaviour deteriorates until he punches a teacher. Sentenced to three months house arrest, and with his itunes and xbox live accounts suspended by his mother (Carrie-Anne Moss), he’s forced to amuse himself by observing his neighbours. Which is where all the trouble starts…
There’s a strong case for Disturbia having one of the most uniformly strong casts of any film in the last couple of years. Moss, Morse and Craven are at the top of their game, all three actors who consistently perform above and beyond what the material they work with requires of them. Moss in particular is on great form, clearly relishing playing a normal woman instead of a PVC-clad kung fu maven and her interactions with LeBeouf have a real ring of truth to them.
LeBeouf, who became the poster child for fanboy hate in 2007 for daring to star in Transformers is equally impressive. He’s a consistent performer, and interestingly one who seems able to adapt to whatever the material calls upon him to do. This is not the frantic, grifter of Even Stevens, or the roguish and charmingly-rubbish Spike of Transformers. Kale is a broken boy, and LeBeouf’s willingness to explore the unsympathetic and dark elements of the character help lift the film immensely. He is, like him or loathe him, a far smarter actor than he’s ever given credit for and with any luck, his turn in ‘Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’ may finally put him over the top.
Likewise, Sarah Roemer as Ashley, Kale’s new neighbour manages to be smarter than the material. She’s superficially the standard ‘hot neighbour’ but again there’s a dark streak to her, and a playful element to her interactions with Kale that raise a very stereotypical plot far above where it would normally sit. Only Aaron Yoo as Ronnie, Kale’s best friend, drags the film down and does so badly. Playing almost as though he’s wandered in from a broader, less subtle film, Ronnie’s the comedy relief in a film that doesn’t need it and, unfortunately, hurts many of the scenes he’s in.
However, unsurprisingly, this is a film that belongs to Morse. A hulking, softly spoken figure, he’s a fascinatingly plausible and utterly dangerous presence in the film, an intellectual superior to the teenagers and a genuine physical threat to everyone. Morse is one of the best, and least recognised, actors of his time and this is yet another superb performance in an endless string of them.
For all these positives though, Disturbia is in the end, just the sum of its parts. The ending is a mess with supporting characters reappearing seemingly just to be killed, and a closing sequence that owes more to the Saw franchise than anything else. Whilst there’s a lot to enjoy here, the film, in the end, could and should have been better. Worth seeing for the performances but not much else.