Drone warfare may be a topic that has been dealt with previously in cinema – the most recent example being the Ethan Hawke-starring Good Kill – but no film has tackled the debate quite like Gavin Hood’s utterly compelling Eye In The Sky.
Succeeding where others have failed, this manages to put a face to the argument; a young girl named Alia Mo’ Allim who, in spite of a heavy Al-Shabaab prescence in her area, likes to Hula-Hoop, read books and sell bread. Her life hangs in the balance and she doesn’t even know it, with the decision as to whether she lives or dies lying in the hands of politicians and military leaders
Unknown to Alia, a drone, hidden in the sky above her, has a missle aimed directly at a home that lies adjacent to her own; a home that is currently housing a group of terrorists who look to be on the verge of staging an attack. It’s up to a select group of people to decide whether the loss of an innocent girl’s life is acceptable in the grander scheme of the operation, and whether the ends justify the means.
Boasting a taut, brisk and self-contained narrative, what Eye In The Sky lacks in terms of visual prowess – the majority of the film consists of people taking in rooms – it more than makes up for with its high-stakes. The argument at the centre of the film is a riveting one, and the director, Gavin Hood, does a fantastic job of placing you right smack bang in the middle of it.
There’s an unshakeable sense of realism that surrounds the film, particularly in the way in which its characters are represented, which only adds to the horror of the choice that needs to be made. This isn’t a film with big moments, nor does it preach a particular message. Instead, it derives tension from the quieter moments, provides both sides of the debate and leaves it open for the audience to discuss and contemplate long after the credits have rolled.
On a personal level, I was surprised by just how much I was affected by it. I found myself so invested in the story and its characters that I couldn’t help but get emotional during its final few moments. The film didn’t open my eyes as such but, through its viscerality, provided me with a unique perspective and further cemented my feelings on what is a complex situation. For that alone, it is a triumph.
All of this is before you take into consideration the masterful performances. Helen Mirren plays when of her most complex characters in recent memory, a Colonel whose obsession with capturing these terrorists may just compromise her judgement and morals. Conisdering the actress has been playing ‘safe’ roles of late, her turn here is refreshing and muscular. Adding a degree of poignancy to proceedings is Alan Rickman in one of his final performances, proving once again exactly why he will always be an iconic and very much missed actor. And, on a side note, it’s great to see Captain Phillips‘ Barkhad Abdi on the big screen again – especially in a role that allows him to break away from typecasting.
With heart-pounding, edge of your seat tension, Eye In The Sky is a unmissable and essential piece of cinema. It has accomplished performances and all the twists and turns you would expect from a film of its kind. Its greatest achievement, however, is the way in which it deals with the complex ethics and morals of what is a very current topic. I’d be surprised if you left this without feeling strongly about the subject, one way or another, and that in itself makes Eye In The Sky a rare cinematic gem.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com