Eye In The Sky

Empire (UK) - - CINEMAS -


15 102 MINS.

DI­REC­TOR Gavin Hood CAST He­len Mir­ren, Aaron Paul, Alan rick­man

Af­ter track­ing a group of ter­ror­ists, Colonel Pow­ell (Mir­ren) fi­nally pins them down to a small house in Kenya. She or­ders a drone strike, but when a lit­tle girl is spot­ted in the kill zone the de­ci­sion to at­tack be­comes more com­pli­cated. AVIN HOOD’S Hol­ly­wood ca­reer has so far been a bit of a non-starter. Ren­di­tion, X-men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine and En­der’s Game had some meaty ideas, and were all fan­tas­ti­cal takes on the well-mean­ing pawn in a no-good war, but they were hard to dis­cern among some very dull film­mak­ing. Eye In The Sky, which picks at the same theme, is sim­pler and much, much swifter. Eas­ily Hood’s best work since the Os­car-win­ning Tsotsi.

This is a war movie with­out most of the genre hall­marks. There’s no face-to-face com­bat, min­i­mal gun­fire and the roles of good­ies and bad­dies are ever shift­ing. It’s about mod­ern war, in which life or death de­ci­sions aren’t made on the bat­tle­field but from miles away, us­ing al­go­rithms and armed drones. He­len Mir­ren’s Colonel Pow­ell fi­nally has the world’s most dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ists in her sights and wants to blow up the house they’re hid­ing in. A girl sell­ing bread next to the house turns the de­ci­sion into a global de­bate, no­body pre­pared to in­struct the fin­ger that will pull the trig­ger and prob­a­bly kill an in­no­cent. That trig­ger is con­trolled by a drone op­er­a­tor (Aaron Paul) in Amer­ica. Pow­ell is in a bunker in the Bri­tish coun­try­side. Bri­tish govern­ment of­fi­cials are in a plush con­fer­ence room. The for­eign sec­re­tary is on the loo. No­body is in Kenya. They, like us, watch the whole thing on screens, with their hands clean.

Hood, with fluid edit­ing by Megan Gill, keeps the pace break­neck and doesn’t let the dis­tance be­tween the char­ac­ters make it dis­jointed. It’s a moral thriller more than an ac­tion one, ques­tions fired at us like so many bul­lets. Is one as­sured death worse than 100 prob­a­ble ones? Does fol­low­ing an or­der ab­solve you of re­spon­si­bil­ity? Who is worse if both sides kill? You’re not al­lowed to con­sider one and then the next; you have to jug­gle all at once. It does a su­perb job of con­vey­ing the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions Pow­ell, as a sol­dier, is pre­pared to make but her su­pe­ri­ors pass up­wards in case they ex­plode in their hands.

Guy Hib­bert’s script lets no­body off the hook, in­clud­ing the au­di­ence. As one politi­cian blasts Rick­man’s Lieu­tenant Ben­son for even con­sid­er­ing killing the girl, he eyes her dis­gust­edly — what a loss he is — and tells her she has the com­fort of judg­ing while “watch­ing with coffee and bis­cuits”, never see­ing the con­se­quences up close, like a sol­dier. Switch the bis­cuits for pop­corn and it’s us. Are we fit to judge? OLLY RICHARDS

Where the hell did she put the shop­ping list?

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