Eye In The Sky is a film that I would pair with Good Kill as the sort of film that Hollywood really needs to be making all the time, because the topic of drone warfare raises issues of moral ambiguity that most war films seem to actively shy away from. War cinema is often one of the best reflections of the society that produces it, and as such Eye In The Sky makes for some truly excellent cinema, being both simple in its core premise yet compellingly complex in its structure and plot.
Having tracked several high-ranking Al-Shabaab militants to Nairobi, Kenya, military intelligence officer Colonel Katherine Powell (in a powerful performance by Helen Mirren) heads up an operation to capture the terrorists alive. However, when fresh intelligence reveals a deadly new threat, her mission parameters change as she negotiates with Whitehall politicians to turn the capture mission into a targeted drone strike.
Full disclosure: I was rather surprised to discover that this film was directed by Gavin Hood, whose previous titles includes such dross as Ender’s Game and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. With that kind of mediocrity in his repertoire, the astoundingly entertaining nature of this film is something of a break in tradition, as the plot is both nail-bitingly tense and confidently paced. The tension rises in a steady crescendo as one setback segues into the next, which makes the culminating point all the more impactful. It speaks volumes that a film with a total of only two explosions can pack more punch than 3.5 hours of Michael-Bay-destructo-porn.
Characterisation is deliciously varied. Col. Powell and Gen. Benson (icily portrayed by the late Alan Rickman) are the professional centre-point of the thriller, their efforts frustrated at every step by Whitehall politicians more interested in their own PR than international security, with life/death decisions being made on the toilet and during ping-pong games respectively. It makes for a delightfully Clausewitzian blend of war and politics, which really adds to the moral ambiguity of the entire premise, and it was refreshing to see the American drone pilot (Aaron Paul) take the moral high-ground, rather than being the typical trigger-happy armchair generals they are usually depicted as.
Eye In The Sky is, in summary, an intelligent and thought provoking film that manages to merge the moral and political issues of drone warfare with a level of tense espionage action reminiscent of The Bourne Identity. The pacing is superb and maintains the tension right until the end. I’ve compared it to Good Kill for the subject matter alone, because the former takes a more personal angle on the morality which I will certainly review at a later date. In the meantime, watch Eye In The Sky for an experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.