Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) leads a joint British, American and Kenyan military operation to seize several members of Al-Shabaab. But when circumstances change and lives are threatened,the legal, moral and political consequences of modern warfare are brought into question as the danger steadily rises.
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi and Iain Glen.
One thing that is decidedly notable about Eye in the Sky is the prescience of the film; drones, the political wrangling of sensitive issues and the violence of militants have greatly permeated our news channels in recent times. Indeed, the issues are so close to what we have seen that the story of Eye in the Sky could be happening tomorrow, or even today, such is its steadfastly contemporary approach.
Having said that, for the first section of the film at least, the script contains a lot of exposition to ensure that we’re all on the same page; the fact that it also has to set up the multitude of characters and situations makes it a tad baggy dialogue-wise, but once the operation begins, the film becomes tauter and continues self-assuredly.
In becoming more entertaining, Eye in the Sky thankfully doesn’t forsake the earnestness of its investigations in lieu of cheap thrills; everything unfolds in a realistic and logical manner as responsibility for the delicate operation is passed around like a hot potato.
From the gloomy army base, to the varnished London boardroom and beyond, the main questions that everyone is asking boils down to this: if you could potentially prevent the deaths of many people, how much collateral damage is justified if it will save them?
Whilst it may err towards the general criticism that war overall is bad, there is much more to the film than that; Gavin Hood’s nuanced approach to each facet of the arguments on show is to be applauded. That fact that war has its casualties is never in doubt, but what is in doubt is whether anyone can ever escape from impossible situations like this with impunity. Contrary to what you might think, there is relatively little finger pointing or bias here; it doesn’t preach, merely offering every viewpoint so that the audience can probe and come to conclusions ourselves about what transpires.
Additionally the movie has surprising moments of splendidly wry humour (for such a deep subject) which are delivered by a fine, mostly British cast that is on excellent form; though the scope of the film doesn’t allow the camera to linger on them for too long at a time, the actors capably sell us their characters, be it the frustrated and aggressive Helen Mirren or the reluctant and emotive Aaron Paul.
And then of course, there is Alan Rickman who posthumously dominates the proceedings as Lieutenant General Benson. He truly conveys the idea that “less is more,” through his masterful poise, pronunciation and minimal shift of expressions, which speak volumes about his bemusement and weariness, as he resignedly mediates the clashing of ideologies. His last lines are particularly brilliant as well.