When I first saw the trailer for ‘Eye In The Sky’ I was really intrigued by the storyline, and I was even more interested to see how a film based on the use of drones in modern warfare would pan out. It’s fair to say that the film completely excelled my initial expectations and has easily become one of my favourite films of the year.
Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), of the UK military, is leading a multi-national, top-secret, drone mission to capture or kill members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Kenya. The mission becomes a lot more complicated however, when a remote surveillance team shows evidence that the terrorist group are preparing for a suicide bombing. With time of the essence, Colonel Powell demands the operation objective is escalated to kill, rather than capture the terrorists. Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) is gathered with Government officials, who are conflicted about the notion of sending a hellfire missile into such a public place. USAF pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), who is controlling the drone from an American Air Force base, is given the go-ahead to fire the missile, but he refuses to pull the trigger when an innocent nine year old girl stops inside the blast zone. This triggers a moral and political debate amongst the military leaders and politicians about what they should do now the mission could be life or death for this young Kenyan girl.
From the moment Steve Watts is given the go-ahead to fire the missile, I was on the edge of my seat. From here, the film begins to make the viewer feel like they are part of the ongoing situation and makes you question the actions of the characters on screen. You find that you yourself are analysing the situation, as if you were part of the mission. The scenes are incredibly tense; I felt anger when the politicians were passing the buck and refusing to make decisions, and I felt nervous as Watts’ shaking fingers hovered over the missile’s trigger.
During the beginning of the film, we get to see some of the main characters in a more personal light – for example the first time we see Frank Benson, he is struggling to choose which doll to buy his granddaughter, as he doesn’t understand the difference between the array of toys he is starting at. This allows us somewhat to see his character outside of the Lieutenant General (despite being in uniform); Just a grandfather faced with a wall of children’s dolls that he had no clue about. Seeing a more personal side to the characters made the film even more nail-biting when the conflict erupts amongst them, but it also justifies the perspectives and motives of the individuals during the mission. I think this film was shot incredibly well considering its main characters are all sat in different rooms across the globe. There are a lot of scenes toing-and-froing between the characters, as they interact via webcams, phones and instant messaging, but the transitions from character to character are smooth and not quite as headache-inducing as I first thought it might be.
‘Eye In The Sky’ was released a few months after the tragic passing of Alan Rickman, and ultimately would be his final on-screen performance. He plays the middle-man throughout the debating, as he argues on behalf of the military whilst stuck in a room full of politicians, who would rather pass the responsibility onto someone else than make a decision for themselves. Rickman’s undeniably memorable voice was perfect for this role and the tone of this film, and I’m sure you will agree if, or when,you watch it. My favourite line of his in the film is:“Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war”. He delivers it with such truth and sternness, that it really does make you sit back and think about what’s happened in the film. The whole cast deliver strong and emotional performances throughout the film, and the film’s encapsulating nature evokes a feeling as if you’re sat in the same room as them.
This modern warfare drama/thriller is one of my favourite films of 2016 because it fully immerses you into the on-screen situation, and has you questioning everything the characters say throughout this mission. It literally had me on the edge of my seat when I was sat in the cinema, and I genuinely can’t remember the last time a film made me do that. Captivating performances, incredibly tense throughout and a thought provoking plot make ‘Eye In The Sky’ a film you simply must track down.
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Cast: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi