A military officer in command of a drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya sees her mission escalate from “capture” to “kill” just as a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone.
ActorsStarring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Iain Glen, Barkhad Abdi, Phoebe Fox, Kim Engelbrecht, Jeremy Northam, Meganne Young, Carl Beukes, Monica Dolan, James Alexander, Armand Aucamp, Babou Ceesay, Francis Chouler, Kenneth Fok, Daniel Fox, Olga Gainullina, John Heffernan, Graham Hopkins, Jessica Jones, Tyrone Keogh, Lex King, Kate Liquorish, Richard McCabe, Zak Rowlands, Julian Stone, Luke Tyler, Aisha Takow, Ebby Weyime, Mondé Sibisi, Gavin Hood, Michael O'Keefe
“Eye in the Sky” is not the first film to tackle the moral issues associated with drone warfare – “Good Kill” was one, “Unmanned” another, but it is the best so far. Helen Mirren plays a British colonel leading a complex military operation involving Somalian terrorists. The operation unfolds unexpectedly and she has to decide what to do next under the all too watchful eyes of her immediate boss (Alan Rickman) and a cast of meddling politicians, all anxious to cover their own backsides and avoid taking morally complex decisions at all costs.
The film manages to set up its frame of reference very carefully, with a drone giving us a view into the terrorist compound and the civilian population that may become “collateral damage” all too nearby. It implicates the viewer as much as the politicians in this “war as video game” as we stare agog at the video feed from the drone as events unravel. It interleaves tense scenes on the ground as we watch the action unfold in and around the compound with the plausible and at times unsettlingly amusing scenes of military and political supervisors back in Whitehall and elsewhere as they frantically scramble to cover their own backsides and avoid taking any decision that could somehow harm their own political careers or leave them exposed legally.
Gavin Hood, who previously directed sci-fi movies including the unsatisfying “Ender’s Game” and “X Men Origins: Wolverine”, shows previously hidden depths of directorial skill as he sets up the situation on the ground with the terrorists, ratcheting up the tension as the key characters, which he spends just enough time to get us engaged with, move in and out of danger under the watchful eye of the overhead drone, piloted by the inexperienced Steve Watts (nicely played by Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” fame). The story tackles head on the moral complexity of having to potentially make a decision that may cost lives but may save many more, and we see the assorted characters reacting in very different ways to this. The acting of Barkhad Abdia, who plays a Somalian agent put in harms way as the action unfolds, is particularly superb, wringing every piece of emotion out of a notionally small role. The film maintains the tension superbly, and does not flinch from moral ambiguity and complexity even at its resolution. Even a seemingly irrelevant scene with Alan Rickman’s character buying a doll for his daughter before the action unfolds later has a clever and poignant significance. This is a thoroughly impressive movie, carefully written, well acted and brilliantly directed.