See? It’ll only blow up a little, calm down.
If I asked you to name as many engaging, thrilling, suspenseful action/war films as you can, you’d probably start somewhere around ZERO DARK THIRTY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, ACT OF VALOR, right? We’ve come to recognize that a good war flick gets down onto the battlefield and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat usually by providing a version of the soldier’s POV. Two-thirds of EYE IN THE SKY, however, takes place in tiny rooms with uniformed military personnel and politicians from various governments staring into computer screens, while repeatedly calling each other on FaceTime, and yet this was one of the most suspenseful military films I’ve ever seen.
The POV is centered within the safe confines of familiar democratic countries and in almost every shot the camera angle puts the audience at eye level with the scene, making you feel present and part of the exchanges. They were nicely cut with hand-held shots of the target area in the Nairobi village, creating an easy-to-follow story, and allowing space for an emotional vulnerability to the full weight of the drama, especially during the amazing close-ups.
Written by Guy Hibbert (ONE CHILD, COMPLICIT) and directed by Gavin Hood (ENDER’S GAME, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE), this film provides a glimpse into modern day warfare; the most advanced military-espionage technology capable of calculating risk variables down to an adjustable survivability option for those within the blast radius, aka the “politically okayed and legally permissible collateral damage.” This theme feels like a radical interpretation of Spock’s “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Hibbert doesn’t leave much room for speculation in the plot; it is stripped down to the nitty gritty moral fiber. Intel is gathered and confirmed, leaving assured mission success and dozens of lives saved open for the taking, with one condition–they must unanimously agree to allow the potential death of an innocent girl. This moral conflict doesn’t have a right answer, does it? Step into the pilot’s seat with Aaron Paul as Steve Watts (BREAKING BAD, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE) and find out if playing a video game really makes it any easier to take a life.
Helen Mirren (WOMAN IN GOLD, RED 2) plays Col. Katherine Powell, the commanding officer of a British Intelligence six-year mission tracking radical extremists. Helen must have been channeling Margret Thatcher because her performance as a relentless Iron Lady was beautifully cold, yet the conviction to the passion that drove was easy to fall in line with.
I cannot close without also saying how much I enjoyed seeing the late Alan Rickman perform again (HARRY POTTER series, DOGMA) before he tragically lost the battle against pancreatic cancer on January 14, 2016. In this film Rickman plays Lt. Gen. Frank Benson, the supervising officer over Powell, whom shares her belief that the mission must be a success, regardless of one casualty. Alan disappears into a tired warhorse mixed with Eeyore the donkey, and brought metric tonnage of subtext to the dialogue. In spite of the somber shroud throughout the film, Rickman brought the only noticeable comedy, starting off with a charming toy store scene at the beginning, and calling back on it in the final ten minutes of the film, but after the emotional trauma of EYE IN THE SKY, you’ve got too many tears running down your cheeks to even chuckle.