Eye in the Sky
Starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi,
I was a bit worried about Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky”. It looked nearly identical to Andrew Niccol’s drone thriller “Good Kill”, starring Ethan Hawke last year. While both films explore the new technological world of modern day warfare, “Eye in the Sky” takes the viewer deeper into the politics of using drones as both international surveillance and intercontinental weapons. Niccol’s film, a master thriller in its own right, focused more on the personal aspect of an air force pilot, relegated to drone piloting. This war film focuses on one particular terror situation that involves multiple countries arguing law, politics and jurisdiction all set to a gripping and intense set up that will have the viewer on their edge of their seat.
After six years of tracking a radicalized British terrorist who is on England’s most wanted list, Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) has a visual on three people on their terror list. With one silent and undetected press of the trigger, an American air force pilot (Paul) sitting in Las Vegas can drop an air-to-surface missile that will not only kill the terrorists but prevent a suicide bombing. Lt. General Frank Benson (Rickman) of the British military sits with the attorney general and junior minister to debate the legality of the strike, as an innocent 9-year-old girl has entered the bomb radius. Powell argues that the death of one Kenyan girl is worth saving the lives of many victims of an upcoming public suicide bombing.
A great film will not just entertain you for 90 minutes, but in this case, inform.
A great film will not just entertain you for 90 minutes, but in this case, inform. In a way that isn’t boring or monotonous, director Hood and screenwriter Guy Hibbert take the audience into the elected/appointed officials who influence acts of war. There is even some humor within the dire and urgent situation, as the British officials at one point must reach out to the British Foreign Secretary (“Game of Thrones” Iain Glen), dealing with food poisoning out of the country at a trade conference. Depending on your politics and view of war, each audience member will likely side with a different character, although some of the character’s sway back and forth as the circumstances change intermediately.
Despite being an edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller, “Eye in the Sky” should prove disturbing to viewers and create lots of discussion. It legitimizes the new war front and how easily technology allows governments to spy unseen and unheard. Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”) plays an agent who fly’s an electronic beetle into the terrorist dwelling, which ten years ago might have looked like science fiction. The editing here is particularly effective as it quickly boils the suspense within the plot to an unexpectedly tense level. Mirren stands out among the ensemble cast in a role that deviates from her usual. Her commanding performance in the pulse of the picture. This is also the final on screen performance from Alan Rickman (Harry Potter’s Snape).
It will be hard to find another film in 2016 that provides this quality of cerebral stimulation and pulse pounding absorption.