Tuesday, April 5, 2016

[Review] Eye in the Sky

Much like last year's under-the-radar Good Kill, this taut and well-wrought suspense thriller explores the drastic complexities of drone warfare. Eye in the Sky enlists Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips - "Look at me, I am the captain now"). The film also contains the legendary Alan Rickman's final on-screen performance, which of course is a good one.

Operating from a UK military base, Colonel Powell (Mirren) commands a top secret drone mission in an attempt to thwart a suicide bombing in Kenya. Powell works earpiece-to-earpiece with General Benson (Rickman), the pilot tasked with executing the strike (Paul), and an inside man (Abdi). They've got a terrorist safehouse under surveillance--tiny hidden cameras masquerading as birds and insects buzz through the quarters, searching for new intel. "Well that changes things..." Alan Rickman's character says in the most Alan Rickman way ever.

As if things weren't already dicey enough in regards to a capture or kill debate and the varying degrees of collateral damage, the military crew learns that a sweet little girl is in range of the kill zone (there are repeated shots of her hula-hooping to drive home the innocence). This raises the heavy moral questions and dilemmas for everyone. Take the life of one in order to save hundreds, or...? Things get to the point where the ultimate say is passed around like a hot potato between multiple higher-ups, because no one wants to take responsibility for whatever the outcome may be.

It'll make you sweat, it'll make you think, it'll make you want to look away. Not a moment is wasted in this film, as every seat-gripping scene steadily escalates to uncomfortable and heart-racing levels. Director Gavin Hood and screenwriter Guy Hibbert do a terrific job with exploring all of intricacies, political and emotional conflicts, and the technological tactics of the situation. The performances are great, as well. Helen Mirren is stern but stressed. Aaron Paul seems to be taking roles that will stop people from forever referring to him as Jesse from "Breaking Bad", even though he carries over some of the same teary-eyed compassion. Alan Rickman is ultra serious and he expertly delivers some stellar lines. There's also an amusing bit near the very beginning of the film that involves his character awkwardly going doll shopping for his granddaughter. But things get so intense afterward that you completely forget about that wonderfully deadpan scene by the end.

Eye in the Sky is extremely timely and manages to be propel its own ambivalence amidst the unfortunate realities. The only conclusion is that there is no easy conclusion.

* 8.5/10 *

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