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A young American computer engineer named Max Petersen (Shane West) is given a mysterious mobile device, and prompted by a series of text messages to take a series of risks. These gambles start with stocks, and quickly lead to a trip to a Prague casino. Max’s constant win streak draws the attention of casino security head John Reed (Edward Burns), and after a series of altercations, the attention of FBI Agent Dave Grant (Ving Rhames), who is investigating a series of crimes tied to similar mysterious mobile devices.

Echelon Conspiracy
Again, the general rule of thumb of avoiding movies with recognizable actors but entirely unrecognizable titles pays off. I know there are exceptions, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. The Echelon Conspiracy is a generic recreation of all those great conspiracy laced thrillers of the post Vietnam ear. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s terribly generic, and the scope is too small to reproduce the mindless action entertainment of something like Eagle Eye, which it resembles more than just a little (hint hint). The pacing is slow, the ideas belong to better writers, and the technical aspects—the one thing these films usually get right—are incredible dopey. The NSA and FBI are run by idiots that even stupid audience members could outthink (I watched it with three friends and we were always at least three steps in front of the plotting), and the technology itself is surprisingly old fashioned. The ‘secretive’ ear piece Max uses when he’s caught with his phone is gigantic, and glows blue, and just in case we didn’t think the casino was run by total morons, Max puts his finger to it every time he’s given a message. This pretty much sums up the whole film.

Echelon Conspiracy
I’m not really sure why actors of this calibre were interested in the film, besides the fact that Ed Burns, Ving Rhames and Martin Sheen have proven they’re willing to do anything for a buck. Not only is the story not even worthy of television, embracing clichés, and lacking any suspense or surprises, but the dialogue is bland, and all these guys have played enough arch to get it out of their systems by now. Shane West does his best, but isn’t particularly compelling, and everyone else appears to understand they’re only in the movie to appear on the marquee. I hope the cast wasn’t looking forward to working with director Greg Marcks, because the guy pulls every trick in the post- Bourne book, including shaky cameras, car chases in front of world monuments, and unnecessary speed ramping. The pacing isn’t sluggish, but it doesn’t move quickly enough to make the journey any less boring.

Echelon Conspiracy


This is obviously a 1080p transfer, but it’s not a great one. Details are relatively sharp, including faces, clothing textures (the Russian dude has Fulci’s Zombie on his shirt!), etcetera, but other things are a little fuzzy, such as stray hairs. The sharpness isn’t aided by the stylized use of shallow focus, so we have to give the transfer that benefit of the doubt. Colours are pretty impressive. Overall hues run the gamut from warm to cool depending on the surroundings. Most of the skin tones are somewhat victimized by the surrounding hues, which looks a little funny when the scene is tonally warm. The colours don’t bleed, and high lights pop appropriately. The transfer’s real problem is in the overall noise and grain, which is probably partially a stylistic choice, but is really distracting at some points. The grain is thick, and features some flecks of white, which standout like print damage on an older film. Worse is the compression noise in the warmest colours, which are just as blocky as a decent standard definition transfer.

Echelon Conspiracy


The Echelon Conspiracy features a satisfactory Dolby TrueHD track, which doesn’t blow the doors off, but gives the film a bit of extra production value during the tepid action scenes. The surround channels are relatively quiet, but the stereo channels are lively with off screen noise and whooshy abstracts between scenes. The musical score follows the generic template, and is sure to tell the audience exactly what to think at any given moment (this is a love scene, this is an action scene, this is a suspenseful scene). The use of drums—electronic and real—is the mix’s most overwhelming aspect, save one big car chase. The car chase throws a few directional effects into the rears, and features all kinds of LFE action, especially when one of the cars explodes into a ridiculous fireball.


Nothing at all. Whew.

Echelon Conspiracy


The only real reason to see this particularly generic conspiracy thriller is the really silly climax, which (seemingly) accidentally recalls aspects of John Carpenter’s Dark Star without the touches of comedy. Otherwise, I’m thinking Paramount was correct in not giving The Echelon Conspiracy a proper theatrical release, or even much of an advertising blitz for its video release. The Blu-ray release doesn’t surprise, but doesn’t disappoint either, unless you actually enjoyed the film, in which case the complete lack of extras might bum you out a bit.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.