When people think of war-related pictures, lots of explosions, soldiers charging into combat, and nonstop chaos usually come to mind. Eye in the Sky, however, views modern warfare from a unique perspective – a bird’s eye perspective as a matter of fact. Gavin Hood’s film depicts a secret drone strike from behind the scenes. Although it actually has very little conventional action, this still manages to be one of the most intense and harrowing thrillers of recent memory. Considering that drone missions have rapidly increased over the past couple years, Eye in the Sky is also a highly relevant movie that’s sure to strike up some important discussions.
Helen Mirren leads a first-rate cast as Colonel Katherine Powell, a military intelligence officer in charge of the drone operation. Initially, the plan is to capture several terrorists hiding out in Kenya. Upon realizing that the terrorists are going to execute a suicide attack, the military decides to bomb their safe house. The problem is that a little girl is selling bread in the kill zone and getting her out of harm’s way proves futile. Aaron Paul gives an effective performance as Steve Watt, the drone pilot who must make a morally challenging call: follow orders and prevent dozens of deaths or save a single child’s life.
In one of his final screen roles, the late great Alan Rickman plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson, who has seen so many casualties in his lifetime that he’s learned to keep his emotions reserved. We additionally get some fine work from Iain Glen as a British Foreign Secretary who suffers from stomach problems at the most inopportune time, injecting a little dark humor into the plot. Barkhad Abdi follows up his Oscar-nominated performance for Captain Phillips here as an undercover agent on-scene. When he fails to drive the nine-year-old girl away from impending strike, though, all hope appears lost.
On paper, a movie that largely consists of people looking at computer screens might not sound all that exciting, especially when compared to a Jason Bourne picture. Guy Hibbert’s exceptionally paced screenplay, however, doesn’t have a dull moment in it. Every second that goes by is more nail-biting than the last, leaving the audience at the edge of their seats throughout. It all amounts to a stimulating final act when a difficult decision is made.
Although I won’t dare give away Eye in the Sky’s final destination, let’s just say that it’s sure to stir up mixed emotions. Some people take comfort in knowing that the military is constantly watching out for our safety. Others might argue that the military has too much power and Big Brother has gone too far. Walking out of this film, you’ll likely see matters from both perspectives. Eye in the Sky never portrays the military as bad guys, but it doesn’t present them in the most heroic light either. Everyone is an identifiable human being and nobody is necessarily right or wrong. These are simply people who have been presented with an impossible choice with no easy answer.