Today: February 28, 2024
This image released by Bleecker Street shows Phoebe Fox, left, and Aaron Paul in a scene from "Eye In the Sky." (Keith Bernstein/Bleecker Street via AP)

Eye In The Sky

Cinema can do any number of things to a person as the lights dim and the films begins. It can entertain, it can inspire, it can cause emotion, the possibilities are endless. But if you can plant a question in the audience’s mind and have a collection of characters represent numerous viewpoints on that question you will engage with people on a powerful level. Eye In The Sky sets out to create a moral play on a hot topic that shows no signs of abating, drones.

The film centres around a group of military personnel, lead by Helen Mirren’s determined Colonel Powell and Alan Rickman’s General Benson. As they orchestrate the operation drone pilots Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox must monitor the situation in a hostile country all the while knowing their payload might be called upon. Throw in a collection of politicians there to witness the planned capture of Kenyan extremists high on American and English kill lists and everything seems set to go smoothly.

That is until the targets in question prepare two explosive vests and two suicide bombers. With the clock ticking the capture operation turns into a kill mission but with civilian casualties a very real possibility the mission becomes not just military but legal, political and highly moral.

Like every character on offer, including those being indecisive, Eye In The Sky invites you to partake in the key question. Would you kill the targets, preventing them from escaping and killing potentially many more, at the expense of civilian lives, and in particular a young girl close to the point of impact? It is essentially a moral dilemma, like the diagram of a train track that splits in two, on one track one person, on the other four. How do you way up the cost of a life?

The quandary at the center of the narrative draws you in. Director Gavin Hood, who is known for some of his visual flourishes in films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Ender’s Game handles everything with a delicate, often reserved sensibility. What is more there are subtle, often satirical nods to the greater issues surrounding the matter at hand. In an opening scene we see Rickman’s General struggling to decide which doll to choose for his daughter. Toys, it seems, are hard to make a decision on for this man but ordering a missile strike is a decision made far swifter.

There are moments when the film delves a little too into Hollywood territory. A number of spy-drones are utilised to get us inside the house which feels like something Michael Bay would conjure for a Transformers movie. In their defence they aid with the narrative but they are slightly jarring with the otherwise harrowing reality on offer. It’s made all the more strange because this really is the sort of film that would work just as well on stage as it does on screen. American audiences might also take some offence that every US character on display is all too happy to push the button and kill, kill, kill. Given the country’s current situations such observations may be a little close to the bone.

A ferocious, fascinating and tense thriller Eye In The Sky posits a question in your mind and refuses to give you answers meaning it will last long in the memory.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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