Eye in the Sky: Film Review

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I assumed Eye in the Sky would follow a team of drone pilots and present a series of situations, but it doesn’t, this focuses on one sole case presented in real time as the military and politicians hash out whether to strike or not.

Helen Mirren is Colonel Katherine Powell who is in charge of a drone capture mission of high-profile members of terrorist group Al-Shabaab, who have gathered at a home in Nairobi, Kenya. She is based in England, while her drone pilots Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox) are in Las Vegas monitoring the meeting from the air, and Kenyan undercover agent Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) reports from the ground.

The mission soon escalates into a shoot-to-kill when suicide vests are discovered and this sets off a chain of command for approval, from Lieutenant General Frank Benson (the late great Alan Rickman), who is in Parliament with politicians, who simply can’t make a decision. They have even further problems when an innocent girl sets up a market stall in the drone blast radius.

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This is tense and I was on the edge of my seat. There are moments when a decision is dragged out and you simply can’t bare it – it’s like when the winner is about to be announced on The X Factor. This worked at times but started to feel too dragged out – make a decision already! Presenting the film as one case in ‘real time’ gives us great insight but also painstakingly shows you how long it takes for things to happen.

The emotional toll of the strike affects Steve the most and Paul puts in a brilliantly emotional performance. He is the one who will press the button and kill people – will his conscience let him follow orders? Mirren doesn’t play a likeable character, Powell wants the terrorists dead and she is being held back by bureaucracy. You can see her point, but you can see the other side too. I must also mention the wonderful Rickman – this is his last acting role (he has a voice part in the upcoming Alice in Wonderland sequel) and he is brilliant as ever. The topic is serious but he made me laugh often by his voice and delivery.

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This presents both sides of the debate – would you kill the girl to save countless others who could later be killed by the terrorists’ suicide bombs? It makes you question what you would do in that situation, and leaves you thinking for a while afterwards.  The military thinks it’s best to strike now regardless of the girl, while the politicians are scared of the fallout of such a controversial move. The film does seem eventually balanced, although it seemed to criticise the British government for being unable to take responsibility for a decision, while the U.S. approve the strike without much thought.

Eye in the Sky has a lot to say politically and captures the zeitgeist with drones, a real-life terror organisation and references to their actual attacks. The performances all around are incredible and this is a taut, nail-biting thriller which makes you think about the moral and ethical issues involved in drone warfare.

In cinemas Friday 15th April 

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