Mirren plays Colonel Powell, a military intelligence officer who is coordinating a drone strike on three dangerous religious extremists in Kenya. Operating from a high-security base in England, the entire operation is carried out remotely - Powell calls the shots from her bunker, Benson (Rickman) liaises with COBRA in London, Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) flies the drone remotely from a computer in Nevada and Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) is running surveillance in the field.
What starts as a routine operation soon becomes anything but as numerous different factors inhibit a clean execution. Instead, Powell and her peers must debate the various ethical, legal and political dilemmas of destroying a high-value target whilst also sacrificing innocent bystanders.
Almost none of the key cast share a room with one another, which means that 80% of the film consists of actors essentially talking via FaceTime for just over 100 minutes. Thankfully, the film doesn't use this element as just a fun gimmick - it's a storytelling device that is used to illustrate the numerous bureaucratic hoops and stakeholder groups that even the most procedural of missions must endure. The constant back-and-forth is maddening at times because the characters are trapped in a shit situation where every outcome is shit and they know it. No matter what they do, no-one comes out the other side smelling of roses - and the film holds you in this inescapable vice-like grip to demonstrate this.
The real treasure nestling inside Eye in the Sky is the captivating screenplay; the plot is superb, the pacing is pitch-perfect and the dialogue is enthralling. Mirren gives a superb performance that is underscored with grit and determination rarely seen from the seasoned British thespian. Likewise, Aaron Paul finally breaks free of his typecasting and delivers his best performance since Breaking Bad as the morally-conscious drone pilot who can't help but question the tactics of his superiors.
When the climax finally comes, the audience and the characters are both poised for the worst, waiting with bated breath for an ugly conclusion to an awful situation. And it really hits you - hard. All that careful exposition and character work makes way for a powerful ending that'll leave you speechless for days.
The Verdict: 9/10
Eye in the Sky is an enthralling, captivating, gut-wrenching film that is propelled by excellent character work, expertly written dialogue and a powerful, politically-charged message. Don't take my word for it - you need to see and feel this film for yourself. Prepare to leave shellshocked.
Eye in the Sky is in cinemas across Australia now