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ECHELON CONSPIRACY (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 6, 2009 by  



“A cross between ‘War Games’, ‘Enemy of the State’ and ‘Eagle Eye’, ‘ECHELON CONSPIRACY’ is yet another film to sport a government supercomputer gone awry.  The plot has some inherent problems but for the most part, was beautifully shot in locations in Bangkok, Prague, Sofia and Moscow and looks good on Blu-ray.  Unfortunately, the film is quite bare bones with no special features at all.”

Images courtesy of © 2009 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: ECHELON CONSPIRACY

DURATION: 105 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 Dolby True HD, Subtitles: English, French, Spanish and English SDH

COMPANY:  Paramount Pictures/Paramount home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Sequences of Intense Violence and Action, Some Sexuality and Brief Language)

Release Date: July 21, 2009

Directed by Greg Marcks

Screenplay by Michael Nitsberg and Kevin Elders

Based on a story by Michael Nitsberg

Executive Producers: Charles V. Bender, Navid Mcllhargey, Jonathan Tzachor

Produced by Alexander Leyviman, Steve Richards and Roee Sharon

Associated Producer: Stephen Bender

Music by Bobby Tahouri

Director of Photography: Lorenzo Senatore

Edited by Joseph Gutowski and James Herber

Casting by Dean E. Fronk, Gillian Hawser, Donald Paul Pemrick

Production Design by Antonello Rubino

Art Direction: Ivan Ranghelov

Set Decoration by Valentina Mladenova, Giovanni Natalucci

Costume Design by Lyubomir Doichinov, Alison Freer and Maria Mladenoza

Starring:

Shane West as Max Peterson

Martin Sheen as Raymond Burke

Edward Burns as John Reed

Ving Rhames as Agent Dave Grant

Tamara Feldman as Kamila

Jonathan Pryce as Mueller

Sergey Gubanov as Yuri Malanin

Steven Elder as Charles

Sandra De Sousa as Female Casino Tech

Greg Donaldson as Casino Tech

Todd Jensen as Agent Fletcher

Yuriy Kutsenko as Russian General

When Max Peterson (Shane West) receives a series of mysterious cell phone messages that promise him untold wealth, he soon finds himself the victim of a deadly international plot. Chased by a lethal team of government operatives, Max races across the planet in a desperate attempt to unravel a conspiracy that threatens the stability of the entire world. Edward Burns, Ving Rhames and Martin Sheen co-star in this techno-charged edge-of-your-seat action thriller!

In 2009, “Echelon Conspiracy”, a film directed by Greg Marcks (“11:14” and “Lector”) and a screenplay by Michael Nitsberg and Kevin Elders (“Iron Eagle” films) was released in theaters.  The music for the film was composed by Bobby Tahouri (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “Outlander” and “Iron Man”) and cinematography by Lorenzo Senatore (“Starship Troopers 3: Marauder”, “Lake Placid 2”, and “Boogyman 3”).

The film would star Shane West (“The League of Extraordinary Gentleman”, “ER” and “The Elder Son”) as the main character Max Peterson, Edward Burns (“Confidence”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Brothers McMullen”) as John Reed, Ving Rhames (“Mission: Impossible” films, “Entrapment” and “Con Air”) as Agent Dave Grant, Martin Sheen (“The West Wing”, “Bordertown” and “The Departed”) as Raymond Burke, Sergey Gubanov (“The Payback”) as Yuri Malanin and Tamara Feldman (“Gossip Girl”, “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Rez Bomb”) as Kamila.

The film revolves around an American computer engineer named Max Peterson (Shane West), who helps high level companies encrypt the passwords for their servers.  One day he receives a package.  Inside the package is a hi-tech cell phone in which he receives a message to book another day at the hotel he is staying in Bangkok since it’s half off.  So, Max decides to cancel his flight back to the US and stay another day.   He realizes that his flight that he was supposed to take has crash-landed and everyone aboard has died.  He then gets a message to invest in stocks in which he doesn’t but realizes that the stock has climbed up by a very large percentage.

Knowing that the messages he receives are major tips and seeing the news reports has validated that someone out there is trying to help him,  the next message requests of him to go to Prague and to visit a hotel/casino.  And to bet on certain slot machines in which he wins a lot of money, then told to bet it all for a game of Blackjack in which he wins again.

Hotel/Casino security staff led by John Reed (Edward Burns)have observed Max and notices that he uses a cell phone before he won his matches and assume their must be something going on.  So, they send one of their employees Kamila (Tamara Feldman) and another man who are disguised as an arguing couple in which Max tries to defend the woman.  He ends up being knocked out by the man and while out, they quickly take his internal card for his phone is scanned.

Meanwhile, Max enlists the help of his taxi driver and tech hacker Yuri (Sergei Gubanov) to construct him a head piece that would receive messages from his phone by voice) and so the casino would be off his back.  Eventually, Reed sees that Max is up to something and as they try to pursue him, he is apprehended by FBI Agent Dave Grant (Ving Rhames).

Taken to a hidden area with a bag over his face, Max is interrogated and Agent Grant wants to know where he is receiving the messages but Max doesn’t know who is sending him the messages.  Meanwhile, the National Security Agency (NSA) looks into the messages and suspect that someone has hacked into the US government supercomputer known as Echelon.

And similar to the previous people that were assisted by the hacker, may have had the three who was in communication via cell phone with Echelon have been murdered.  So, now Max has to make a decision to help the government catch who is sending the messages to him or face prison time.  So, Max decides to help the government.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Echelon Conspiracy” sports a vibrant 1080p High Definition transfer (2:40:1).  The opening shot of Max riding through Bangkok and the detail you see in the surroundings was great to see.  But each country visited tends to sport various colors with earth tones and flesh tones looking quite nice.  Personally, I like the vibrant colors and the various color tones when Max visits each country.  For example, Moscow tends to sport blues while Prague and Bangkok showcase a lot of reds and amber colors.  But overall, picture quality was pretty good on Blu-ray.

As for the audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD.   Definitely a spacious sound and there are a good number of action sequences (nothing near “Eagle Eye”) such as a car chase and machine gun and gun shots that are feature quite well through the fronts and surrounds.  For the most part, the film’s dialogue is clear and understandable and as much as I would like have more punch through LFE and hearing my subwoofer being utilized heavily, the soundtrack was satisfactory.

Subtitles are provided in English, French, Spanish and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Unfortunately, there are no special features.

For the most part, “ECHELON CONSPIRACY” was an average but entertaining action thriller.

In a way, it’s like “War Games” meets “Eagle Eye” but takes place in several countries and overall, the screenplay was just OK.  To have another film about a supercomputer of the government trying to make its own decisions of how it will protect America’s freedom is a bit too soon (“Eagle Eye” came out months on DVD around the same time this film came out in theaters).

Needless to say, because the film shares a similar (but yet different) storyline to “Eagle Eye”, there will be comparisons to other movies like “Live Free or De Hard” and “Enemy of the State”.  But if the plot is smart or features non-stop action, people are quite forgiving and accept it as is.  For “ECHELON CONSPIRACY”, the film sports beautiful location shots in various countries, a good number of action scenes but quite a number of glaring problems.

For one, the lead character gets punched out.  Fortunately, the filmmakers put a nice purple bruise on his cheek but how Max recovers with no pain or discomfort and automatically starts flirting with the beautiful Kamila was just over-the-top.

As much as I would like to believe former FBI agent John Reed would be a top casino’s security chief in Prague, I find it even more unsettling that the FBI would bust in the casino, apprehend Max the way they did and put him in the middle of a warehouse with a bag over his head and try to use scare tactics of blowing his brains out.   Even more unsettling is how Reed would find where the FBI agency is located so quickly and somehow teams up with Max.  A few extra minutes that go into why Reed quit the agency and his determination of getting involved in this case would have been nice.

I tend to enjoy the 007 casting mindset, if you are going to film a movie in another country, isn’t best to use talent from that country to give the film more realism?

And Martin Sheen’s character was just not utilized all that well.  And this relationship between Max and Kamila, can a woman who faked being saved by a computer engineering geek be so willing to give herself up that quickly.

So, you know where this film tends to be a bit farfetched and as much as I hoped for a smart plot, it becomes more of a cat vs. mouse film which is entertaining but as a non-serious, popcorn action flick.

As for the Blu-ray release, I’m more disappointed that for a film that is shot in so many different locations around the world, there was not one special feature included.  I can understand if it’s an older film but in this day and age of newer films on Blu-ray (or DVD), you expect something extra.  Sometimes a commentary or feature can help build that enjoyment for a film but there are no interviews, no behind-the-scenes featurette, no mention of shooting in various locations around the world.  Not even a trailer.

Overall, “ECHELON CONSPIRACY” can be entertaining but compared to other films with a similar storyline of big brother watching you or a supercomputer not following protocol, this film which had potential, doesn’t quite shine as I hoped it would.  But if you have an open-mind and are in the mood for a non-serious film and a film that you just leave logic out the door and enjoy, you may find “ECHELON CONSPIRACY” to be an entertaining film.

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