The Story: After an altercation at school, troubled teen Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is sentenced to three months of house arrest. Stuck at home, he soon becomes bored and turns to spying on his neighbors to pass the time. It doesn’t take long before he becomes suspicious that one of them (David Morse) is up to something devious and, with the help of his best friend (Aaron Yoo) and the girl next door (Sarah Roemer), he begins to investigate further.
The Good: From the get go, it is clear that this is Shia LaBeouf’s movie, and he responds by carrying it with a tremendous ease not often seen in those twice his age. I am a big fan of his, having seen nearly all of his films, and this one only adds to my belief that he is the best actor today under 25. He not only is able to play the movie’s lighter and comical scenes to great effect but also excels at the dramatic and suspenseful ones, giving his character a well-rounded edge. This type of charisma and depth is rarely seen in a movie such as this, which is the main reason why this film is able to rise above the recent crop of similar genre related fare. The rest of the cast, although not as strong as LaBeouf, is still above average. David Morse does a fantastic job at portraying a genuinely creepy guy where the entire time you know something sinister is lurking underneath his fake sincerity. Aaron Yoo is able to provide some good laughs, and Sarah Roemer makes for a good romantic lead that has problems of her own. While it was weird seeing Carrie-Ann Moss in a “normal” role, she is able to pull it off. I also commend the film for offering a few surprising scenes that I genuinely didn’t see coming.
The Bad: This film isn’t exactly original in its storytelling (the general idea is borrowed from Hitchcock’s Rear Window), so it doesn’t take too long before you can pretty much figure out how everything is going to play out. I found it a little strange that adults are conspicuously absent for most of the time. Also for some reason, the filmmakers decided to add an endless buildup right before the ending and, so when it finally does come, it’s not as big or exciting as what you were expecting.
The Verdict: While Disturbia can be a bit derivative at times, the journey along the way is both fun and exciting. Shia LaBeouf’s talent and likeable personality, combined with the film’s better than average direction, is what makes it all come together and be a success. LaBeouf, who is set to star in this summer’s Transformers and next summer’s Indiana Jones IV, is posed on the brink of stardom and, if Disturbia’s opening weekend is any indication, that time is near at hand.
The Score: B+ (87%)