March 10th, 2016
MOVIE: EYE IN THE SKY
STARRING: HELEN MIRREN, AARON PAUL, ALAN RICKMAN, BARKHAD ABDI
DIRECTED BY: GAVIN HOOD
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Eye in the Sky succeeds in generating tension with a series of military procedures involved in the war on terror, and it does so in a way that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Director Gavin Hood and writer Guy Hibbert, focus on the complex moral struggles of drone strikers, but also portray the frustrating process of political decision making that comes into play when the finger is on the trigger. Anchored by strong performances from Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul, it makes for an intriguing birds eye view of warfare today.
Spreading across four locations, we zoom in on the horn of Africa, where numbers three, four and five on the U.K.’s military most wanted list, are in the sights of Colonel Katherine Powell (Miren). A mission is deployed to capture radicalized brit- Aisha Al Hady (Lex King), who has slipped out of Powell’s hands before, and now she is located in a house with other extremists loading explosives into a suicide vest. Using the most advanced technology that military can buy, we follow newbie drone operators Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox), while Oscar nominated- Barkhad Abdi plays an agent in the field. We know that war is won, not only with missile strikes, but decisions made in board rooms, as we are introduced to Lt. General Frank Benson, played by Alan Rickman in sadly his last performance. In his first scene he is struggling to pick out the right doll for his daughter, now he must engage in choices to save or take lives. He is surrounded by the ladder of decision makers, who must know the correct rules of engagement in all situations, which render them paralyzed to choose for themselves.
Although Eye in the Sky is a talkative movie, almost to the point of frustration, Hood’s film succeeds at creating tension with conversational build up. The “chain of command” process is a surprisingly comical element. Like a game of hot potato, each person passing the responsibility to the next, in hopes that they won’t be the last one pressing the big red button. What started with tactical ground surveillance, is now a desperate need for action, as Powell constantly reminds us “time is critical.” Making the situation worse, a little girl walks into the blast range, selling bread fifteen feet from the back of the house. Innocent lives are at stake, “We better ask the secretary of defense.” Groan!
In a film such as this, the action is in the dialogue details. There is on point military jargon, supported by an in control performance from Mirren, whose role was originally written for a male. She surveys the screens in her bunker with a keen eye and constantly asks for measures of the collateral damage estimates. She is the one focused on the task at hand, ready to do whatever it takes to save lives, which could also cloud her judgement. Meanwhile, the drone pilots, safely nestled in a Las Vegas operating room, both having never fired a missile, bear the emotional weight and indecision of being the individuals who have to actually pull the trigger.
I found the final result of Eye in the Sky to be a successful procedural drama, with an up to date look at how war is fought today. Although the narrative can run a bit long, it stays the course, as Hood’s work compares slightly to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, but with interesting questions about what the “right” course of action is. The conversation will continue much later after you leave the theater with questions such as, are drone strikes any less of a traumatic form of warfare to our soldiers? Do politics get in the way of results? Or does the possible death of one child, justify the survival of many? Either way, I know that I am glad I don’t have my finger on that switch. I would rather pass it on to you…
Written by: Leo Brady