Eye In The Sky
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, and Barkhad Abdi.
Year Released: 2015
Running Time: 102 Minutes
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“Eye In The Sky” is academy award-winning South African director Gavin Hood’s return to his traditional brand of highly political filmmaking, after an ugly run with some sub-par big-budget Hollywood projects. This complex thriller documents a joint British/American operation to capture high-level Al-Shabab members (including a radicalized American and British national) in Kenya with the help of local intelligence and military personnel. The situation is complicated when the terrorists move to a fortified neighborhood that prevents any possibility of capture. Things get worse on the ground as surveillance reveals that they have bomb vests and are planning a suicide attack in the very near future. The cherry on this sundae of s@#$ is the fact that a young girl is in the blast radius of the proposed drone attack, leaving everyone involved to debate whether or not they can/should proceed.
While it may be due to the bigger budget nature of the movie, I thought the moral choice was frustratingly simple. It’s really just a spin on the old question of whether it’s moral to kill one to save a hundred. Even with all the debate, it’s obvious that the drone attack will go thru and the girl will be caught in the blast because it would be a complete anti-climax for anything else to happen. Though it speaks to the skill of the cast and the director, that despite the obvious conclusion I was drawn into the movie and was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Everyone gives a good performance but special thanks should be given to Helen Mirren, who plays a badass British Colonel despite looking like a Grandma. She commands every scene she’s in while radiating power and authority without simply becoming a one note war hawk. There’s also a special place in movie Valhalla for the late great Alan Rickman who brings his acid wit and unmistakable voice to one of the other British military members. I hope this posthumous appearance reminds people, that while Rickman might only be known for playing Professor Snape and Hans Grubber he had loads of talent.
Since the ending is never really in doubt and the plight of the little girl did not tug a single one of my heart-strings (I seen enough movies with cute kids, I’m immune now) where does the story draw you in? Well, for me it was seeing the bureaucracy of war. Much of “Eye in The Sky” is spent watching how disparate groups of politicians and military personnel all try to come to some kind of agreement despite holding wildly different opinions on absolutely everything and for the most part, not even being in the same country as each other. Needless to say, the British military is ready and willing to make the strike but only after they consult with their on base legal counsel (apparently those exist). However, the American drone pilot is not exactly thrilled about having to be the one who actually pulls the trigger that kills a child and tries to use military rule-fu in order to buy her more time to escape.
While all this going on the British politicians are desperately passing the buck in hopes that they won’t have to be the one who went on record as authorizing a missile strike on an African prepubescent. There’s something darkly funny about all this panic over who’s culpable for a secret assassination, it’s like a war drama starring the cast of “Yes Minister”. It almost goes without saying that when the British Foreign Secretary asks the American Secretary of State what his position is, he takes all of two seconds before saying they should vaporize the hajjis and the camels they rode in on (though not in those exact words). Overall “Eye in the Sky” is a good thriller with a great cast but I’m left thinking that with a bit more time on the script it could have been even better.
Did I like the movie: Yes
Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it
Would I buy it: No
Recite a proverb: Light a man a fire, you warm him for a day. Light a man on fire and you warm him for the rest of his life.