The politics of war have never been more complicated.
Rarely do war stories manage to stay so apolitical but so gripping at the same time. Eye In The Sky maintains some real vibrancy as it plays out with some thought provoking, grim and borderline farcical moments that the modern state of war has devolved into.
These days, thanks to upgrades in modern technology warfare takes place in the moment with details and events changing by the second and very often some impossible decisions have to be made. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is command of a top secret drone operation in order to capture some high ranking terrorists while at a meeting in Kenya. However when they discover that these terrorists are in the middle of planning a suicide bombing, the nature of the mission goes from “capture” to “kill”. However when a little girl enters the strike zone, American drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) insists on a reassement of the mission in order to give this little girl a fighting chance to survive. This sparks off an international debate through the highest levels of both British and US government and military as the moral, political and personal costs of modern warfare all get encapsulated in the most difficult of situations.
While it doesn’t quite hit every note that it wants to perfectly, Eye In The Sky manages to feel relevant as it successfully puts us in the moment of needing to make an immediate decision and about living with it.
Director Gavin Hood hasn’t felt this relevant and salient as a filmmaker since his Tsotsi back in 2005 and working from the very solid script by Guy Hibbert we are successful immersed into these horribly tense moments that now make up the modern face of war. He seamlessly transitions from location to location with a fair amount of ease, giving us that genuine in the moment tension that this story demands. The script from Hibbert does make any huge leaps and even when it gets to some farcical territory, we unequivocally believe it all because this isn’t just a story about the horrors of war but also about the political drive and need to cover one’s ass when a particularly hard decision is placed in front of them. The dialogue is sharp and crisp while Hood only ever allows us to get emotionally involved with the characters that he wants us to. It’s not flashy filmmaking by any means and lacks any in-depth emotion, but that is kind of the point as it is an exceptionally well executed film from beginning to end as the narrative shines an equal light through every aspect of this decision making process.
Every key member of the ensemble in this picture carries just the right amount of weight for everything this movie needed. Helen Mirren is her standard sage self as the world weary Colonel tasked with the thankless job of hunting terrorists wherever they may go. She knows it’s not an easy job but it’s one that has to be done as Mirren brings a genuine and intense fire to the role. In his last on screen moment, the sublime Alan Rickman is an absolute lynchpin in the story as he is a military man forced to navigate some incredibly tricky political waters. He brings sensitivity to a role that could have easily been a characture as he carries every hard decision that he has ever had to make as a warrior and a solider with him everywhere that he goes. Aaron Paul is his stalwart self as the fresh faced pilot who finds himself in a situation where he has to pull the trigger for the very first time as his experience in war has no become completely different.
It’s a story of three different soldiers in different stages of their career and how they adapt to the ever evolving face of war. They know that they are in situations that simply cannot win; just one’s that they have to live with and that’s really what this movie is about. As much as drones and remote technology have made the war on terror look very different in the public and even the uneducated eye of government, Eye In The Sky proves that for the soldiers involved in it all war is still an ugly but occasionally very necessary thing in the global landscape.