Review: Eye in the Sky

If I had a feature on my blog about films that were the surprise hit of the month, this would be the top of that list, being received with altogether an extremely positive attitude, it swayed my reservations into giving it a watch. Tackling the use of drones in modern warfare, the film shows a situation of attempting to capture terrorists in Kenya, only to have a question of the ethics of their actions cause them to become hesitant about changing the course of action. Starring Helen Mirren, the late Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul and Barkhad Abdi, directed by Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), who also stars in the film as Lt. Colonel Ed Walsh and written by Guy Hibbert.

Firstly it has to be addressed that this is the final on screen performance we will ever see from the amazing actor that was Alan Rickman, his acting in this film is fantastic and somehow manages to converge such a serious turn of events with humour, it’s certainly bittersweet to watch. Secondly there’s the undeniable force that is Helen Mirren, if she didn’t seem like a woman you shouldn’t mess with before, she will now; but at the same time as conveying the strength her character clearly has, you can still see the conflict behind that. That’s really the key to the film, seeing what making these decisions on drone strikes and their consequences do to a person, can they really keep a clear conscience in all this? And undoubtedly we do see that with everyone involved, all to different extents within the context of their characters but it’s clearly present. As with Rickman’s character giving that bit of humour, it derives from the very ordinary nature of their lives outside of the military or government, at the end of it all these people go home to their families just like everyone else, but they’ve spent the day ordering death and destruction, that use of perspective effectively highlights even more the result of making a decision to strike, particularly when it can injure innocent people.

Upon discovering that the screenplay was written by Hibbert, a writer who had previously only worked in television, it gave me pause as to what the result of this film might be, going from television to film on a project with fairly serious roots seemed risky but it certainly pays off. The script for Eye in the Sky is wonderful, the dialogue is fantastic and the pace and atmosphere that it creates is better than I could have hoped, the direction it takes the material on drone warfare is almost perfect. This is a serious subject and a very current one, the film tackles it in a way that makes it appropriate for film and at the same time refraining from taking away from its importance. The other significant thing is that despite every aspect of the film taking part in a different corner of the world, at no point does it feel confusing or jumbled, the movements from London to Vegas to Hawaii to China to Nairobi, back and forth, feel smooth and emphasise the stories ability to move at a good pace, while actually relatively little is happening, I can’t deny that’s impressive. The real quality that makes this film a success is being a thriller, of course it’s not one where you  are waiting on a big ending, it’s simply the process of getting there and working on the consequences of the actions required to achieve that. It’s honestly something quite difficult to describe, it’s not quite edge of your seat or holding your breath but there’s a quality to it that will hold the audience in that suspense and most importantly, will not disappoint.

The way that the direction and writing on this film has made a fairly depressing and deadly subject into something not too far fictionalised and yet utterly watchable is great, it’s full of excellent performances as well as ethical conundrums that will get you thinking. This is a subject that’s incredibly present in the world today and this is certainly a way to get people more involved and considering the consequences of drones while at the same time creating a decent thriller.

Verdict: 8/10

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