“The cost of war…” comments Alan Rickman‘s high-ranked character in response to a reflective and hugely important moment in Eye in the Sky but it’s not one of dismissal to a throwaway act, it’s that of honesty, regret and the seemingly modern necessity of humanity fighting against each other in a world of continual unknowns.
It’s difficult to rate Eye in the Sky on a separate, fictional level because much like the topical and intensely realistic Homeland it feels all so very relevant to today’s society. Although personally I don’t sit in fear every day of possible terrorism, it would be foolish to disregard the dirt in any part of the history we find ourselves in right now. That being said, Gavin Hood‘s direction gets right into the reality of the choices different people make even if they’re politicians or soldiers, they’re still people like us but deep inside a world where they make decisions they may not want to, or take orders they’ve agreed to adhere to.
Helen Mirren plays Colonel Katherine Powell, a high-ranking officer who’s in charge of a highly confidential drone operation to capture or kill terrorists in Kenya that’s based in the UK. Although Mirren’s Colonel offers up a hardened persona, it’s clear as the film proceeds that she’s stuck between making the choice to protect the countries she’s representing and, the biggest thing here, the moral decision. The reason for this dilemma? It’s because they’re tracking down and wanting to elimate ‘most wanted’ terrorists that are literally in their crosshairs but the mission is compromised by an innocent young girl who’s selling bread and immediately within the kill zone. While intially the orders are given to send in the missiles, Aaron Paul‘s drone pilot, Steve Watts, based outside of Las Vegas at a military base, also questions how to mimimise collateral damage or if it’s even possible.
Adding to the questions, and sharing responsbility, is Alan Rickman‘s Lieutenant General Frank Benson who on a surface level may appear to just be a man in military uniform in a room in London but he’s far beyond that. It’s sad to say this is Rickman’s last on-screen role for the legend but he’s exceptional and geninue, as always. On the flip-side of all this, the only person really putting their own life at risk is Barkhad Abdi‘s character who is their person literally on the ground and deep in the intense action and, furthermore, reacting to the orders of those ranking above him and putting his life at risk. He’s very impressive, and you can sense both his understanding of what he needs to do and the fear in what’s occuring.
Eye in the Sky may well be dramatised entertainment, in the form it presents, but it’s also a bleak, deeply true reflection of what happens in the world today with the technology available to our military and governments. That being said, the film is superbly done with honest performances full of regret and purposefulness, who are all under different pressures for a host of reasons. You’ll find it both compelling and uncomfortable but this is an important picture that may just remind any viewer what’s at stake in such, now all too common, situations.
Eye in the Sky is available on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 15th August.