Eye In The Sky, 2016
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi
What would you do if you have your enemies located and have your best chance of killing them? And what would you do if suddenly an innocent child enters the target zone? Is one child's life worth the risk of letting the bad guys go free with the promise of much more death and destruction? These are the kind of ethical questions Eye in The Sky asks in it's almost real-time dilemma.
The British military has been tracking several terrorist/extremists for several years in Kenya, a friendly country. They rank high up on the Most Wanted for the East African list. They are dangerous and are known to have been involved in prior large bombings in the country. However things get complicated fast when the option to capture no longer seems viable, and when the decision to kill has been made, a young civilian girl selling bread enters the target zone, what do you do? The decisions are made by people all around the world, from friendly Somali's on the ground in Kenya, to military in Nevada, Hawaii and various locations in Britain.
Eye In the Sky is the kind of war movie I really, really like. I'm not really into on the battleground type of war films. What interests me is war films that ask really strong questions. I'm a huge fan of the Hurt Locker. So Eye In The Sky was genuinely up my alley. Eye In The Sky asks us questions about how ethical drones are and what kind of sacrifices we should be making during war. While Britain and Kenya are not at war in this movie (making the decisions even more muddied), it does reflect the things that our militaries face. As well, the movie is set in imperfect real time (it's more or less real time with some shaving down of time of "trying to get in contact" with people). And I love the decision it made to do that. Eye In The Sky is tense and taut, and plays it's hand well. Like I mentioned, it's not just one room of military employees making these decisions, it's phone calls to various other locations around the world, all involved in this job. And it's a movie that about bureaucracy that is actually interesting! The characters are constantly "referring up" and it shows just how difficult these decisions are, how many people want to weigh in, and how many people do need to weigh in (including people with little to no context). The writing and direction here is excellent. We are constantly feeling the weight of the decisions that need to be made, and that hardly ever lets up.
As well, the acting here is all really great. The script of the film really let all the characters be real humans. We are given a little bit of context to their lives, but we see how these decisions affect, emotionally, many of the characters involved. Helen Mirren, as Colonel Katherine Powell is determined to do whatever it takes to complete her mission. Mirren gives Powell such a strength and is such a force. As the lead of this film, Mirren reminds me why she's as big a star as she is. And while I haven't seen as many films of hers as I would like, the character she plays here feels refreshing and an interesting choice. As well, among the cast we also have Alan Rickman, in one of his final roles, and Aaron Paul. Alan Rickman is just so solid as usual. While his character isn't a showy one, he brings a steadiness to it. Also, Aaron Paul is probably one of the most believable expressive male actors. Isn't he just so great at being constantly teary-eyed? While his role isn't overly large, he is perfect as the emotionally involved pilot who gets the job of launching the drone strike. Aaron Paul needs better film roles, and this was definitely one of them. And also Barkhad Abdi! It was so great seeing him in a film again. It's a shame this is basically his first project since Captain Phillips, but again, Abdi is just really great here and is given a large part (which is nice to see!). I want Barkhad Abdi in more things, because he really is a great actor.
Honestly, I encourage everyone to see this film. Whatever your thoughts are on drone strikes, all opinions seem to be represented here. It's thought-provoking but it's also just a really good thriller. What will happen to the little girl? Will the terrorists get away? The film is tense all the way through and is a better film for it. Go see this movie and support films like this!