Disturbia star Shia LaBeouf appears to have a great future ahead of him. In the past few years, amidst forgettable roles in I, Robot, and Constantine, he contributed strong performances in films like A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and now in the thriller Disturbia. Although it is basically a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, Disturbia is unique in that it mixes elements of teen comedy, romance, drama, and gripping suspense in an entertaining way. Not to say the film is perfect, as it definitely isn't, but it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do and then some.
All of the acting is decent and believable, with standout performances by the aforementioned LaBeouf as Kale, and David Morse, as the suspected villain, Mr. Turner. Serving as great comic relief is Kale's friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) while the new girl next door, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), provides a romantic interest. Also notable is The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss as Kale's mother who is great as always, yet underused.
Kale gets put on house arrest after punching his Spanish teacher in class. It's his third run in with the law since his father died in a car accident a year earlier. Under house arrest, he begins to learn the secrets of everyone surrounding him through the use of binoculars and video cameras. His most important realization in his voyeurism is that his somewhat reclusive neighbor shares many suspicious similarities to a wanted serial killer whom the police have not yet identified.
It's generally difficult to create such suspense under the restrictions of a PG-13 rating (do not watch this at the theater between 7-9 PM to avoid the loud middle school crowd), but instead of just trying to shock, the film conveys paranoia and fright through the use of mood and mere suggestions of menace. The script could have used another rewrite to further develop the cast of characters, as the only one who is fleshed out at all is LaBeouf's.
LaBeouf, who turns twenty-one in June, is looking to join Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ryan Gosling as one of the few great actors under the age of thirty if he keeps turning in strong performances in interesting projects. His star is certainly rising with Transformers due this summer and the fourth Indiana Jones film in the summer of 2008.
We have to realize that even though there is so much that makes Disturbia unique, at heart it is a very commercial effort. The twists are quite obvious, many characters are underdeveloped, and there's product placement everywhere (which is realistic nonetheless). However, at a brisk 104 minutes, it would be a lie to say the movie wasn't extremely satisfying, and an undeniably entertaining film.