Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.
‘Eye in the Sky’ is a gripping military thriller that successfully explores the murky and complex environment of drone warfare. The narrative follows several people involved in a key operation to capture extremists from the terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab, as they meet at a safehouse in Kenya. Heading up the operation is Helen Mirren’s colonel in Northwood, England, and throughout she liaises with a high ranking UK military official (Alan Rickman), a drone pilot in Nevada (Aaron Paul) and an undercover field agent (Barkhad Abdi) on the ground in Kenya. All of these characters play vital roles in how the situation pans out and ‘Eye in the Sky’ does a terrific job of stressing the difficulty and consequences of every decision these people make.
Taking place in real time provides an extra source of tension and Gavin Hood’s direction excels in putting you in the heads of each of the featured characters. Drone warfare is a deeply grey area and ‘Eye in the Sky’ carefully navigates this territory as the characters weigh up the potential outcomes from their decisions whilst considering the legal, moral and political implications of their actions. Perhaps what makes the situation so difficult to judge is that every character’s point of view seems to be rational and understandable at different points as they contemplate the gravity of the situation. ‘Eye in the Sky’ gets every ounce of suspense from its premise and at times it’s unbearably tense, particularly when time runs out to make a rational decision.
The performances bring the story to life, with Helen Mirren a strong lead as the army colonel, Aaron Paul excellent as a conflicted drone pilot and the late Alan Rickman reminding us of his talents in one of his final roles. Last year’s ‘Good Kill’ was another solid thriller about drone warfare, focusing solely on Ethan Hawke’s pilot (similar to the character played by Aaron Paul here), but ‘Eye in the Sky’ betters it through its greater scope that really emphasises the number of people involved in this kind of operation and the difficulty in making the ‘right’ decision.
‘Eye in the Sky’ is one of the year’s finest thrillers, a compelling and intelligent piece of filmmaking about a subject as complex as drone warfare that successfully entertains whilst provoking thought in the audience.
Directed By: Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Aaron Paul, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen and Phoebe Fox