June 24, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: EYE IN THE SKY

Starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman (RIP), Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen. Directed by Gavin Hood. (2015, 102 min).

I was telling a co-worker & fellow film buff (whose political leanings are somewhat conservative) about Eye in the Sky. His first response was, "This ain't one of those movies with some kind of liberal agenda, is it?" A fair question, I suppose, given the topical and controversial subject matter (drone warfare). Then again, my esteemed colleague tends to look for hidden political agendas in everything. I doubt he'll find one here.

Helen Mirren stars as Katherine Powell, a military intelligence colonel trying to capture two suspected terrorists in Kenya. With the aid of surveillance drones and the coordinated efforts of U.S., African and British personnel from around the world, one suspect is tracked to a safe house in the middle of a village. However, when they probe inside the house and learn a terror attack is imminent, the mission moves from capture to kill, with a plan to use one of the drones to missile-strike the house. The problem is that the house is located in a highly populated section of the village, meaning civilian casualties are likely, including a little girl who just set-up a tiny kiosk right outside the house in order to sell bread made by her family.

This complicates matters, both morally and politically. While Powell and Lt. General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman, in one of his final roles) try to plan the attack to keep collateral damage at a minimum, many of their superiors are reluctant to personally authorize the strike. Fearing how this pre-emptive move would be perceived, yet well-aware that a few civilian casualties would pale in comparison to a massive terror attack if they did nothing, the ultimate decision keeps being pushed up the chain-of-command. Meanwhile, the time to take action (or not) is quickly running out.

Looks like someone stuck a spoon in the microwave.

Eye in the Sky raises a lot of questions about the moral and political ramifications of drone warfare, but provides no real answers, probably because there aren't any, which might the whole point to begin with. As viewers, we see and understand both sides of this dilemma because the film has no cut-and-dry heroes or villains. If anything, the real villain is our own technology and the damned-if-we-do-damned-if-we-don’t decisions we’re forced to make before weighing-out the ultimate cost.

Okay, so maybe the movie does sort-of have an agenda, which is that any decision of this magnitude has far-reaching implications, no matter what side you‘re on. That aside, Eye in the Sky is an intelligent and intense thriller (though not particularly uplifting), with great performances by the entire cast. Mirren & Rickman are outstanding as usual, as is Aaron Paul as a drone pilot forced to execute whatever decision is made. As the bottom line, Paul’s character provides the emotional crux of the entire film, all from the safety of a flight cubicle thousands of miles away.

Ultimately, the ethical questions raised by the film are its biggest asset. Eye in the Sky doesn't let us off the hook with a neat & tidy resolution, prefering to make us weigh all the options and the real world consequenses which come with them.


  • Featurettes: "Perspectives" & "Morals" (each of these promotional featurettes run less than 2 minutes)
  • DVD & Digital Copies


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