Overview: A mission to eliminate a group of terrorist leaders finds itself interrupted by heated debate after a young girl wanders into the blast radius. Entertainment One; 2016; Rated R; 102 minutes.
Politically Sound: Eye in the Sky is a thrilling, uniquely small-scale war movie for the new age. The film, which follows a joint operation to capture a group of terrorists in Naorobi, focuses on seven different parties involved, and how an exceedingly simple moral dilemma can trigger so much conflict.
War movies are a tricky sort. Those which involve multiple nations often find themselves allied, whether intentional or not, with certain groups, or mistakenly glorifying the very practice that they set out to criticize. This one is different. In lesser hands, the film would be emotionally manipulative or overtly patriotic drivel. With great direction from Gavin Hood, the film is more mature and considerate than some of those before it. It does not condone nor eschew much-debated drone attacks, but rather presents each side of the argument intelligently and logically. And though audiences may find themselves swayed to position themselves on one side of the debate which leads to some frustration in the sheer absurdity of it all, both sides are adequately represented.
Every Minute (And Life) Counts: Hood deals with the distance and detachment between the core characters brilliantly. With two drone pilots in a military base in Nevada, an image analyst in a base in Hawaii, mission control in London, a second war room in London filled with politicians and officers, and those on the ground of the target zone – a Kenyan special forces surveillance team, a group of terrorists, and a young girl and her family, one would expect a certain amount of chaos or disorder or even boredom. There is none of that here. Even with characters thousands of miles away from each other and the battleground, the film manages a seemingly impossible intimacy, conveying their involvement in a way that gives them accountability for giving clearance or pulling a trigger. Similarly, even in its detachment, it finds tension with a smart provocative script, taut pacing, and an emotional backbone.
The performances here are all filled with a captivating intensity, as each character finds themselves questioning the humanity lost in this new form of combat. Combining both nuance and outburst, each member of the ensemble performs surprisingly well, especially when considering that most of the interaction is done through phone, video call, or even instant messaging. Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Barkhad Abdi, and all of the lesser-known faces are all relatively memorable, despite all of their titles and names and roles.
Overall: Though moments feel unavoidably kitschy, Eye in the Sky is an entertaining thriller which also manages to serve up good mental fodder. Expertly contained, precisely captured, and unbelievably tense, it would be a travesty to let this film slip under the radar.