Eye in the Sky
dir Gavin Hood
scr Guy Hibbert
prd Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, David Lancaster
with Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Northam, Monica Dolan, Aisha Takow, Vusi Kunene, Francis Chouler, Richard McCabe
release US 11.Mar.16, UK 15.Apr.16
15/UK eOne 1h42
Eye in the Sky
Flying the plane half a world away: Fox and Paul

mirren rickman abdi
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Eye in the Sky This unusually brainy thriller dissects a drone strike between groups around the world who feed into the operation politically, militarily and legally. It's complex and sometimes a bit too pointed, but continually challenges the audience with its moral dilemmas. And the central characters are riveting people with distinctive perspectives.

As three most-wanted Somali jihadists convene in Nairobi with two young recruits, British Colonel Powell (Mirren) sees a chance to make a significant strike in the war on terror. But two of these people are British, one is American and Powell must wait for decisions from Lt General Benson (Rickman) and various ministers (including Northam and Dolan). Meanwhile, the drone's pilots (Paul and Fox) are just outside Las Vegas, while a Kenyan operative (Abdi) is right on the scene. Then a young girl (Takow) wanders into the danger zone, forcing everyone to pause.

The most intriguing element is the way no one is willing to make the fateful decision. So passing the buck up the chain of command provides the film with terrific moments of black comedy to break the tension as, for example, the British foreign secretary (Glen) is drawn into the discussion while suffering from food poisoning in Singapore. And director Hood sharply makes the point that the decision makers are all located thousands of miles from ground zero.

The actors are excellent, with especially fine, textured roles for Mirren, Paul and Rickman as people who have to make quick choices with deadly consequences. And the superb Abdi provides the closest thing to a genuine hero, the man on the ground whose quick-thinking and cool gadgets have a chance of making a difference. The situation is far knottier than most movies ever dare to admit, which lets the characters develop in unexpected directions, revealing their true natures beneath the bravado.

All of this is carefully constructed so make a point, so the tension builds relentlessly. It's a shame that screenwriter Hibbert opted not to include the terrorists as proper characters, as that would have added additional layers of complexity, but they are merely observed, labelled as baddies and sentenced to death without pause, something pre-approved by both the British and American leaders. This aspect of the operation is never questioned, which is perhaps an issue too far for a popular movie to tackle. But everything else here is so important, and intelligently riveting, that the film has a resonant urgency.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.Apr.16

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