Rewatched Jul 02, 2012
Tony Black’s review:
A surprise package is Disturbia, as it holds a level of intelligence in its components that elevates it above the simple teen thriller it so easily could have descended into. As a thinly veiled version of Rear Window for the Apple generation, DJ Caruso's nods and winks to Hitchcock are all over his direction yet he never steals too directly, crafting a tight and sprightly, carefully building escalation wrapped around a surprisingly effective lead played well by Shia LeBeouf; in fact this might well be his strongest performance to date and it's equally a surprise to admit he contributes heavily to its success.
LeBeouf carries a level of youthful charisma as Kale, the house-arrested felon haunted by the accidental death of his father, a character who could so very easily have been annoying as hell; he's an engaging protagonist, LeBeouf bringing to life a very solid script and holding the centre of the piece, driving it in a way he's done rarely in subsequent movies. He needs to as the support around him get short shrift - Sarah Roemer only has to smoulder enigmatically in a bikini as his neighbour and love interest, while Carrie-Anne Moss does her best with an underwritten role as his mother; it's only really David Morse yet again proving his chops as a sterling character actor, dripping with quiet, leering menace as the neighbour Kale starts to suspect might be up to murder. Around the more than decent characterisation, Caruso keeps the plot moving well considering the stationary location, always throwing a new curve ball into the mix - plus he amps up that sense of paranoia, suspicion and claustrophobia inherent to the narrative, blending neatly cell phones, webcams, CCTV to build on the new-age Hitchcockian influences to the piece. It's a real shame then that Caruso sacrifices such tension and neat character work for an over blown, over dramatic climax that robs any sense of ambiguity to the whole thing - and while it's effective in its construction, it comes across as far too stock and obvious for the rest of the movie to justify.
Disturbia, though, is well worth a look; despite sacrificing itself by the final curtain, it's for the most part an impressive little exercise in tension, blending teen pop culture and youth with a sense of modern day, technological paranoia and the dread of those around you not being who they seem very well; in addition allowing Shia LeBeouf to prove that with a good script and direction to match, he's actually a fine little actor.