By midlandsmovies, Oct 24 2016 03:35PM
Eye in the Sky (2016) Dir. Gavin Hood
In one of the most tense films of the year, Eye in the Sky poses some important questions of accountability in a film about the use of drones in the War on Terror.
With themes similar to 2014’s Good Kill Helen Mirren is perfect as Colonel Katherine Powell who has been tracking an extremist group, including a British jihadi bride, to a terrorist safe house in Nairobi where they meet up with a cell who plan to carry out suicide attacks.
Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to obliterate this building, Mirren and her team have to assess collateral damage and seek authorisation before proceeding. Hindering her strike is a collection of MPS, military personnel and advisors based back in London who discuss the merits and pitfalls of going ahead.
It is here where the film really excels. In so many films, common sense is jettisoned in favour of thrilling action whereas in this fantastic drama it becomes the focus. Alan Rickman as Lieutenant General Frank Benson (sadly in one of his last roles before his death) is superb as a military man who’s seen the horrors of war and who argues that to win, you have to make tough decisions. Contrary to that is Monica Dolan as Angela Northman who avoids taking a stance and, with others, sends the decision up the chain of command.
These delays create tension between the go-getting Mirren and the worried advisors, as she stresses that more people could be hurt if they don’t attack quickly, whilst they fret about the media and the blame-game. It mostly avoids gender politics – the terrorists, advisors and military are both a mix of men and women – which helps focus on the armed forces conundrum.
As these event unfold, the film tells a parallel narrative of a young local girl selling bread outside of the house. Despite some feet on the ground via an undercover agent (Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips in an excellent performance), they are unable to move her along as they weigh up the extent of the destruction if they send in a missile from a nearby drone. How many lives are worth saving/destroying the film asks? Yet poses no definitive answer and even discusses the issue of what a person’s conscience can handle.
As those in the house record martyr videos and put their bomb-laden vests on, the film builds and builds to a crescendo as arguments are made, analysis is dissected and heated conversations fill both the control room and the safety of the parliamentary office.
The film stretches realism with the use of fictional technology (a fly-sized video drone being the worst culprit) but it’s the conversations rather than the combat that holds the audiences’ attention. And doesn’t let up for a second. But the film places emphasis on ‘seconds’ as tiny delays could end up costing lives if the uncertainty isn’t resolved.
Marvellous powerhouse performances from the entire cast are elevated by Mirren and Rickman showing their legendary range in a remarkable film. Drone controllers Aaron Paul & Phoebe Fox are excellent support as those with their fingers-on-the-triggers but in the safety of your own home the film asks you to question what you would sacrifice for the sake of protecting others. And it doesn’t get much more significant than that.
Midlands Movies Mike