If the subject matter of cinema is affected by the world when it was made, then Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky is possibly one of the most timely films I’ve seen in a long time. With islamic extremism rife in many parts of world, a refugee crisis that no one has the perfect solution to, and remotely-controlled drones meant reduce unnecessary casualties, Eye in the Sky has a lot of potential source material. You think you’ve seen a film like Eye in the Sky before, you think you know how the situation will play out, but Eye in the Sky has brought the military thriller to the modern age. Which in this case mostly takes place through eyes of a military drone.
The premise of Eye in the Sky is simple, but powerful. It begins with a mission run by Colonel Powell and a multi-national military task force to capture key members of Al-Shabaab. The situation however explodes (no pun intended) into something far more serious. It becomes all to clear that they can’t be left alive, and after much bureaucratic banter the mission becomes shoot-to-kill. Which would be the end of the film, if it wasn’t for the little girl, Alia, selling bread right in front of the intended kill zone. What follows is an intense drama that is both darkly comic and incredibly serious. I say darkly comic because I found that while the film doesn’t always intend to be funny, it sometimes seems to. The sheer ludicrousness of the constant “referring up” as the film calls it; when the generals and politicians have to ask for someone else’s opinions, makes you groan but not because of it’s repetitiveness but because the extra tension it adds. It has a slight air of Douglas Adams, if he wrote military dramas. Despite this, the film pulls no punches right to the every end, and we are left as an audience feeling as conflicted as the characters on the screen.
Perhaps what helps Eye in the Sky keep this balance is the fact we’re not bogged down with lots of exposition and preamble. What we see is a moment in time. The mission, and film, takes place all in a single day, and apart from the odd snippet here or there these people don’t have lives outside of this. With that said, the characters are given plenty of depth through their actions and dialogue. Though the actor behind each character also makes a huge difference.
Helen Mirren does an amazing job playing the dedicated Colonel Powell, who’s said dedication will most likely split the audience on whether or not she was just doing her job. It is nice though to see Mirren in a role that one does not traditionally associate with her. Also in the film are Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, and oscar-nominee Barkhad Abdi, all of whom play their roles well,. Though Alan Rickman feels a little out of place in comparison to everyone else. But definitely major congratulations has to go to the young Aisha Takow for her role as Alia in the film. Apparently, young Aisha is a refugee herself and that fact only brings that much more power to her role in the story.
As mentioned earlier, Eye in the Sky feels more timely than many other films I’ve seen. I’m not sure what else to say other than you owe it to yourself to see it. While I enjoyed the film, there are obviously those who won’t. Despite this, I still urge you to go see it. What we see in Eye in the Sky is a situation that is becoming more and more common as the violence escalates in Africa and the Middle East. The beauty of film is that it can bring perspective to those who can’t possibly imagine what a situation like this might be like. Eye in the Sky does just that, brings us a direct line of sight into something we really shouldn’t ignore.