‘Eye in the Sky’ Review: Riveting, morally challenging thriller on drone warfare
Modern warfare in 2016 continues to pose new challenging moral conflicts as fast as technically, such as drone strikes, replace front line attacks against evil terrorist threats all over the globe. Eye in the Sky brilliantly creates a scenario to push the audience away from a clear, black-and-white worldview of decision making and into the “real world” of complex legal and political obstacles as well as the unpredictable human factor.
Centering on a British Colonel (Helen Mirren) leading a strike against a terrorist cell in Kenya, the complex use of drone surveillance and intervention dominates the operation. Partnering with both the U.S. and Kenyan military, the mission to capture Al-Shabaab members before another suicide bombing gets increasingly complicated by many factors, including an innocent girl who is within the blast radius of a potential missile strike.
Mirren delivers and Oscar caliber performance with Alan Rickman as a fierce British Lt. General tasked with getting legal clearance and political approval as each layer of complexity unfolds. Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox are far away in Nevada, piloting the drone high above Kenya and left facing the moral dilemma of “pulling the trigger.”
Director Gavin Hood turns the scenario into an intense thriller, leaving the audience in knots. Introducing some the recent drone tech: a bird and an insect drone, Eye in the Sky amazes viewers by showcasing the military’s ability for pinpoint surveillance and missile attacks. Hood, who also plays the American Lt. Colonel in the film, paints American leadership as resolved and/or bloodthirsty players against terrorism.
In stark contrast is the layers and layers of debate and concern over legality: can we do this? What Eye in the Sky gets right is the question of ‘Should we do this?’
Rickman kills great lines from a tight script by Guy Hibbard, including “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war” – Powerful.
Like Sicario and the war with Mexican drug cartels, Eye in the Sky leaves the audience with moral uncertainty. Spock’s “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one” sounds great in a Star Trek, but is harder to reconcile when a suicide bomber is strapping on a vest full of explosives and acting will murder an innocent child.
It’s hard to believe Hood is the same director who brought us X-Men Origins Wolverine and a mediocre Ender’s Game adaptation. Eye in the Sky is full on subtle eye-opening moments: a Muslim woman being chastised for not covering her wrists, a father hiding the education of his daughter since it’s against Sharia Law, the drone pilots expected to return to work hours after the ‘incident’ and the characters all juggling their “real lives” while this plays out.
Eye in the Sky gets 4 1/2 out of 5 stars