Movie Review: Eye in the Sky (2016)
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Phoebe Fox, with Iain Glen, and Barkhad Abdi as Jama Farah
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Rating: 4.8/5 stars
Exceptionally taut, nerve-wrackingly tense, and extremely timely, “Eye in the Sky” is backed by brilliant direction from Gavin Hood and all-round powerful performances to deliver a rivetingly cerebral and grippingly topical spin on the modern, wartime political thriller.
Colonel Katherine Powell (Dame Helen Mirren), a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, discovers through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel that two of the world’s most-wanted targets are planning a devastating suicide bombing, and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill”. But as American drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage from his Nevada base-of-operations, a nine-year old girl enters the kill-zone triggering an international dispute over the moral, political, collateral, and personal implications of modern warfare, which reaches the highest levels of US and British government.
“Eye in the Sky” can get quite disturbing upon first viewing, but as the dust settles down, quite literally at certain points, you realize just how balanced and ambivalent it is in separating right from wrong. Most of all, it’s a very compelling film, offering the best elements of both a pertinent drama and suspenseful thriller. Thankfully, this is also one of those rare movies that doesn’t make any excuse for the terrorists, and shows them for the scumbags they really are while also reasoning with the west’s stance of eradicating them by any means necessary.
Yet, “Eye in the Sky” provides no easy answers, only tough questions about the harsh necessity of following orders and the bitter yet unavoidable reality of the cost of war, particularly in times such as these, and therein lies the brilliance of this wartime thriller – in making us think as much as it makes us chew our nails while delivering edge-of-the-seat suspense. It’s an ethical and immersive film about the collateral damage and complexities of drone warfare. Hood directs the socks out of the movie, not letting the tension up for a moment throughout this nail-biter, which almost unfolds like a taut and concise stage play.
After eons I can unequivocally state that we’ve been dealt a real, riveting white-knuckle thriller to rank with the best of Hitchcock. I’d be shocked if this doesn’t make most critics’ ten best by the year end.