Eye In The Sky – Powerful and topical.
Eye in the Sky is Alan Rickman’s final live-action film before his death. And wow, what a way to go out!
This film was just so powerful. In all honesty, the only reason I paid it any attention was because it stars Helen Mirren. I am so glad I saw it.
Eye in the Sky tells the story of a joint British / US / Kenya operation in Nairobi to capture a known terrorist, Susan Danford (Lex King). Helen Mirren plays Colonel Katherine Powell, heading up the operation from her base in Britain. Joining her is Drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame) and his off-sider Carrie (Phoebe Fox) stationed across the world in Nevada, USA. They provide the ‘eyes in the sky’ of the films title. Alan Rickman plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson, following the operation from London with members of the UK government. On the ground in Nairobi we have undercover agents Jama (Barkhad Abdi) and Damisi (Ebby Weyime) along with a ready squadron of soldiers lead by Major Owiti (Vusi Kunene).
The story takes a turn when Col. Powell, for reasons of public safety, orders a change in mission parameters from ‘capture’ to ‘kill’. A drone strike is required to take out the intended targets.
What follows is frustratingly high tension, as a young girl enters the kill zone to sell bread. We have the moral debates from numerous points of view, from the drone pilots who refuse the kill order, to the politicians who are paralysed with indecision as the consequences of collateral damage counter heavily with their need to win political favour and the propaganda war.
The obvious questions are asked. What value do you place on the life of one young girl when two suicide bombers are about to embark on missions that could claim the lives of so many more people? Who makes such a call? What are the legal ramifications of such action?
Along with these questions, the film also explores a number of perspectives. Our drone pilots are young, have never seen battle, and are not equipped to carry the burden of the death of innocents. As Watts explains, he simply signed up because he had college debts, and the Air Force was a guaranteed 4 years employment. Now he faces pulling the trigger on a young girl’s life.
The military leaders, trained to protect the public, grow increasingly frustrated as their hands are tied at a time when the action required seems patently obvious.
Undercover agent Jama risks his life to provide eyes inside the target house and also attempts to remove the unwitting little girl from harms way.
And we explore the world of nine-year old Alia (Aisha Takow), the little girl who unknowingly becomes the central figure in this broken decision making chain. Her world is one in which her parents secretly teach her math and reading (such things are not allowed by the fanatics that control the district in which she lives), play is not allowed, and she regularly sees other women harassed for simple things like bearing their wrists in public.
There are moments of incredible, highly inappropriate humour (inappropriate because the issues at hand are so serious, incredible because, regardless of the tension of the film, or perhaps because of it, the audience can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of certain situations). There are moments of near unbearable tension, and moments of such frustration you will want to tear your own hair out.
This is a movie that pulls its audience in and toys with it like a puppet master.
The finale of the film, as time runs out and the final fire/don’t fire call is made, is stunning and provides a climax worthy of such a tension filled movie.
Eye in the Sky deserves your time. A topical story and a well-crafted film. See it above anything else currently out.