Review: Eye in the Sky

Here’s a movie I had no idea existed until I saw it randomly On Demand and took note of the cast, which was the initial selling point. The film stars Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman in his final role, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi (the lead pirate from Captain Phillips) and Game of Thrones‘ Iain Glen. Yeah, I know. Solid Cast. Plus its directed by Oscar winner Gavin Hood, who won Best Foreign Language Picture for his 2005 Tsotsi.

The film came out in 2015 and centers around a joint UK/US task force trying to take down a terrorist cell in Nairobi. The thing that makes this very tense thriller so damn good is that it feels like a play. The action plays out as close to real time as it can while also limiting the film to a small handful of locations; locations that the cast members never leave. We have Helen Mirren’s Colonel Katherine Powell running the operation from a bunker, observing the action from various pieces of intel, including the “eye in the sky”, a drone operated by Aaron Paul’s Steve Watts, whose piloting the armed drone with a rookie co-pilot. On the ground in Somalia is the spy Jama (Abdi), whose feeding information back to Powell as well as British High Command, a table of politicians and military higher ups, including the late Alan Rickman’s Lt. General Frank Benson. The near real time/theatrical approach to the film gives the operation a real time tension, where any number of variables can change the outcome of the mission in a heartbeat.

Whether it’s dancing through political hoops or possibly endangering the lives of innocents, Eye in the Sky does a great job at creating tension as the clock ticks on. We know if the terrorists leave, armed with suicide vests, upwards of 80 people may die. Yet killing them before getting the okay from the higher ups could be a political disaster. It’s thrilling seeing Rickman’s character and his colleges argue about whether or not it’s morally justified in killing the terrorists (some of which are British nationals) as the live feed shows them arming up. Where does one draw the line? When do the lives of the few outweigh the many? Should politics come before safety? The film explores these questions but never answers them, it’s up to you to make up your mind on that. I’m going to keep this short; I wish I knew about this film earlier. It’s excellent and will be bestowed with my highest level of  praise and recommendation. See it; it’s terrific.

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