Sunday, April 24, 2016

Eye In The Sky

Year: 2016
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox

Plot: A joint military operation conducted by American, British and Kenyan forces aims to take out a wanted terrorist using drone technology. But the operation is thrown into disorder when an innocent civilian is within the kill radius of the drone's missile.

Review: Eye In The Sky is the second film in recent memory that focuses on drone warfare, the first being Ethan Hawke's Good Kill.

In this film by Rendition director Gavin Hood, a military operation is conducted by three countries to apprehend a terrorist in Kenya. The head of the operation, Colonel Katherine Powell, commands and supervises the effort, using an American drone piloted by Lt. Steve Watts, while Kenyan forces provide ground support. Together they learn that the terrorist is planning a bombing which will happen imminently. The capture order has now become a kill order. But trouble begins when a young Kenyan girl steps within the kill radius of the drone's missile, and Powell struggles to get clearance from her superiors to launch an attack as they are afraid of the political backlash stemming from civilian casualties.

Unlike the dull Good Kill, which focuses on Ethan Hawke's character missing the feel of piloting a real military jet, Eye In The Sky takes the more interesting route by debating the ethics of drone warfare. In this case, the joint military forces have an opportunity to eliminate a dangerous terrorist, but at the expense of an innocent life. Do they save this one girl, or save the scores of other people who will die at the hands of the terrorist's suicide bombers? Hood and writer Guy Hibbert take their time to explore both arguments, mostly among Powell's superiors, made up of General Benson and ministers of British government. Their discussions actually manage to venture into slightly comedic territory at times, (because apparently nobody wants to make the hard decisions) but it still successfully holds your attention to the matter at hand, which is a feat indeed.

The cast all perform splendidly, the best being Helen Mirren as Powell, trying desperately to accomplish her mission with the sole purpose of saving lives. Aaron Paul is also effective as the drone pilot wanting to execute his orders properly without killing innocent people. Alan Rickman, in his final role before his recent death, is great as Benson as he attempts to persuade the nervous ministers into making the right call. And then there's Barkhad Abdi as a Kenyan agent providing ground surveillance, risking his life in the process. It's good to see him on screen again, despite the somewhat unavoidable typecasting.

The slight downside of this film is the rather predictable elements of how certain things play out, which is most evident during the third act. But to Hood's credit, he maintains the suspense and intrigue as much as possible while making the audience think of the moral debate at the same time.

Eye In The Sky is a gripping war thriller that sends its message without the need to get too personal. Recommended. (8/10) 

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