Eye in the Sky

While a drone circles over Kenya, politicians and military brass in London clash over a strike that could kill a terrorist — and an innocent girl.

Year: 2015
Certificate: 15
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Iain Glen, Aaron Paul, Gavin Hood, Guy Hibbert, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Monica Dolan, Phoebe Fox, Arman Haggio, Aisha Takow, Kim Engelbrecht, Carl Beukes, Richard McCabe

Information Page: https://uk.newonnetflix.info/info/80080265

Military drones are one of the great moral quandaries in modern warfare. However, it’s an issue that Hollywood has largely passed up on addressing. Besides smaller releases like “Good Kill”, it’s TV’s “Homeland” that has offered us the most effective concentration of these ideas. Until “Eye in the Sky” that is, which has immediately become the definitive drone film of our times.

Gavin Hood’s film focuses on a planned strike on an Al-Shabaab safehouse in Kenya but follows the moral dilemma across the world. In London, Helen Mirren’s Colonel coordinates the mission. She liaises with Aaron Paul and his co-pilot in Las Vegas, as well as the ground team in Nairobi, specifically Barkhad Abdi’s Jama. Meanwhile, Alan Rickman’s Lieutenant General meets with ministers in Whitehall to get the government’s go-ahead.

There are a lot of chess pieces in play and the film manages them all superbly, following each and every consequence back and forth across the globe. Hood juxtaposes the high stakes with moments of mundanity (the Lieutenant General out buying presents, for example). This works on two levels. The contrast is satirical, but it also emphasises the closeness of these issues. Huge decisions are made every day, sometimes just down the road or by someone you bumped into in the street.

The narrative is simple but tightly constructed. Little human details make for huge turning points that continue to ratchet up the tension. The drone visuals seem authentic but there are artistic licences taken, particularly relating to some of the technology. Some of these gadgets are straight up sci-fi, but Hood proceeds with such confidence that it feels real, or at least acceptable in this world. And the conveniences aren’t just thrown in there for any old reason. These elements are used sparingly and always with cinematic purpose: to facilitate either a snappy narrative or an engaging visual.

It’s a stacked cast and they’re all very strong. Paul is as good as he’s ever been outside of “Breaking Bad”, but most commanding is Mirren. She’s by turns exploitative, driven and desperate. It’s amazing to have a woman of her age leading a film like this, particularly when she’s surrounded by so many men. “Eye in the Sky” touches upon transatlantic policy clashes, but the film is always more interested in the human stakes. This constant state of moral unease creates great tension, resulting in a classy thriller that lives in the grey areas between right and wrong.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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