This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 10th April 2016
The moral dilemma at the core of Eye in the Sky makes this one of the most exciting and thought-provoking films you’ll see all year. Far from letting us sit back in our seats to passively observe the mind-numbing spectacle of super-heroes fighting each other, it forces us to follow the twists and turns in a plot which moves swiftly and urgently towards the catastrophic bombing of a civilian village.
The eclectic international casting has Colonel Powell (Helen Mirren) running a British-American operation alongside Alan Rickman (in his final on-screen role) to assess the imminent threat of a terrorist group in Nairobi, Kenya. Excitingly, and in keeping with military practice nowadays, it’s mostly handled remotely: while the titular eye includes surveillance driven by an American soldier in Nevada (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), decisions are made in a Sussex outpost, then checked, as the circumstances change, by the Powers That Be in the US and London.
This is what makes the story so fascinating, thanks to writer Guy Hibbert whose CV demonstrates an acuity with crime dramas and bigger political issues: the initially straightforward decision is suddenly derailed when an innocent child enters the frame, prompting back-and-forth deliberations about collateral damage and the legal restrictions on military engagement.
Eye in the Sky certainly can’t be accused, as most US military movies can, of not giving a human face to “the other side”. Made by the director of South Africa’s Tsotsi, this film spends as much time on the ground as in the sky. As a result, it is undeniably gripping as those in power oscillate between what we might consider right and wrong, and will leave you with plenty to argue afterwards.