A potential drone strike is weighed and measured – can the benefits outweigh the heavy cost?
Drone offensives are a huge part of modern warfare and that technology is at the heart of the thriller Eye in the Sky.
It’s a moral, personal and political dilemma, examined through a specific and timely example and the perspectives of a group of people. You have the military commander (Helen Mirren) on a mission, troops on the ground, advisors on both sides of the pond and an isolated pilot holding the stick of an armed drone (Aaron Paul).
The film could have gone many ways from focussing too heavily on the politics to leaning into melodrama but the result is finely balanced, a series of intense interactions with tense moments woven through.
That’s thanks to the steady hand of director Gavin Hood, who is now certainly forgiven for his stumble with 2009’s X-Men Origins Wolverine. His latest melds the strong dramatic work of Rendition with the glossy style of Ender’s Game, and brings in a little of his Oscar winner Tsotsi.
Eye in the Sky does revolve around a series of increasingly complex conversations between groups of people but thanks to quality performances and mostly strong writing by Guy Hibbert it’s never boring.
Top of the pack is Mirren who has the perfect bearing for an intelligence officer. She has a job to do and a target to destroy, and the rest is just needless blabber.
There’s also a wonderful turn from Alan Rickman in his last live-action role, showing just how much he’ll be missed, and a surprisingly effective performance from Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul.
Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi makes an impression on the ground in Kenya and director Gavin Hood also gets to show off his acting chops again, behind a convincing American accent.
Eye in the Sky builds in a slow and carefully measured way towards its powerful ending, filling in background details, flitting from one group to another and really ratcheting up the tension.
That final sequence is genuinely impressive and breathlessly well made, like a large scale version of a Brian DePalma set piece. And when things reach their conclusion it’s done in a way which is a sidestep from the bombastic Hollywood norm.
The dialogue is occasionally a little awkward and some of the gadgets a bit unbelievable but Eye in the Sky is an impressive and timely thriller which gives us a new perspective on the moral quandaries facing armed forces, and the effect on innocent civilians.