Monday, 16 May 2016

Film Review: Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky is an ensemble war thriller that centres on a single decision - to fire or not to fire. Starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Iain Glen and the late Alan Rickman, this powerful thriller will have you teetering on the edge of your seat for a nail-biting 100 minutes.

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.

Barkhad Abdi is also great, as is Game of Thrones alumni Iain Glen as the British Foreign Secretary. His role may be small, but he makes a big impact. However, it falls to the late, great Alan Rickman to serve up the best performance in the film. Sat in a room surrounded by indecisive politicians, Rickman's usual smoothness also comes with an element of anger and punchiness that gives the film a harder edge. It's a rousing send off for the beloved actor, and it's only fitting that his arc comes bookended with one of the films most bizarrely banal yet impactful moments. That might sound strange, but you'll know what I mean if you see the film through to the end...

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


  1. One of the most under-the-radar films of 2016, I think. Hella intense with the dilemmas that it presents.

    "Prepare to leave shellshocked" is right.

    Great review.

    - Zach

    1. Thanks Zach - completely agree, it's really flown under the radar and deserves a lot more attention.



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