Eye is the Sky is a suspense filled drama. It can be argued that it also sides on the edge of a thriller, because the suspense is in abundance. It stars Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul and Barkhad Abdi.
At the centre of the story is Helen Mirren’s character, Col. Katherine Powell, who is the officer in charge of the operation to capture high ranking terrorists who have been tracked to a small house in Nairobi, Kenya. The initial plan to capture the terrorists quickly escalates to a ‘kill’ mission as they discover that they are planning to execute a suicide bombing. When a young girl enters the kill zone to sell bread at a makeshift market stall, an international dispute is triggered and the characters are faced with the devastating political, ethical and moral implications of they decision to fire.
It’s easy to get completely saturated in the sea of moral currents, and even after leaving the cinema, I found myself questioning just how liberal are my sensibilities. This is where the film transcends other films in the genre, it hold up a mirror – but rather than force us to question our own morality in this situation, it asks us gently. But as you can imagine, there are no winners in war.
The film is played out on several stages, the first of which is the control room where Helen Mirren is co-ordinating everything, the second is a US Military base in Nevada. Aaron Paul portrays a young drone operator with a couple of years experience and is accompanied by Phoebe Fox who plays rookie Carrie Gershon, their youth brings a level of emotional reaction lost by those with experience. In a situation room in London , Alan Rickman, in his final on-screen role, plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson. Rickman approaches his character with the same gravitas of which he is known, and it hit me as he said his final lines how sorely missed he will be.
On the ground in Nairobi Barkhad Abdi plays Jama Farah a member of the Kenyan military, who you may recognise from Captain Phillips. Again he is excellent, bringing us directly into the threat.
The swift editing switches between each stage, with exceptional skill, and the editor, Megan Gill really should be commended. At times, the near real-time play through of the events build with nail biting tension. For a film, which is in large part a teleconference, this war film where arguments of politics, public perception and heavy dialogue Gill has been able to create something that is the complete opposite of a Michael Bay film in a genre that he dominates at the box office. Proving that a film about moral warfare can be more nail biting that any of his pictures which, could be easily mistaken from a level on Call of Duty. It is however directed in such a way, that it will appeal a wider audience.
As I’ve said, this is a full of suspense, and the moral implications play centre stage in this movie. More than anything else when the innocent daughter of a local man, who lives in a district taken over by Islamic radicals, enters the kill zone. The legal implications, propaganda and political repercussions are brought into question. I made me hate politicians even more than I already do. If they allow the suicide bombers to leave and kill eighty people, then it can generate support for them. If they kill the young girl, support will be generated for the terrorists.. but it’s not that simple and the excellent screenplay by Guy Hibbert doesn’t pander nor does he tell us what we, as an audience, should think.
My biggest problem with Eye in the Sky is the UK poster. I hate it. It doesn’t convey the debate and considerations that are made throughout the film. These are the films major strengths and you’d be forgiven for expecting to see something more like Enemy of the State
As you can imagine, I much prefer the US poster, but I’m no marketing expert.
So, is it any good? Absolutely. It’s gripping and at just over 1hr 40mins it’s the perfect length – so many films these days want to push the 2 1/2 hours and beyond. It’s doesn’t lag at any point and as it ramps up, I couldn’t sit here and say I wanted this to happen, or that to happen. I didn’t root for anyone, but I felt empathy. As we went into the final act I knew the consequences of each possible outcome, I felt almost easier knowing that I didn’t need to form an opinion about what should happen to the characters or how it should end, to coin a phrase, these issues were “referred up”. I will totally encapsulated.