Magic Mir­ren takes the lead

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

The war on ter­ror gets a fresh, more per­sonal twist in di­rec­tor Gavin Hood’s emo­tion­ally charged thriller.

Head­ing up the cast is Dame He­len Mir­ren as Bri­tish Colonel Kather­ine Pow­ell, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer in com­mand of an op­er­a­tion to cap­ture ter­ror­ists in Kenya.

What ini­tially ap­pears a straight­for­ward tac­ti­cal mis­sion for the de­ter­mined Pow­ell quickly es­ca­lates into a tense game of cat and mouse when a nine-year-old girl wan­ders into the kill zone.

Eye in the Sky moves away from the bom­bas­tic, Stars and Stripes-wav­ing bravado of cer­tain other mod­ern war movies to fo­cus on the im­pli­ca­tions of such ac­tions.

It’s no real sur­prise given Hood’s track record – pow­er­ful Os­car win­ner Tsotsi and CIA in­ter­ro­ga­tion pow­der keg Ren­di­tion – but marks a wel­come re­turn to ear­lier ca­reer form for the South African af­ter big bud­get mis­steps En­der’s Game and X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine.

The screen­play by Ox­ford-born Guy Hib­bert doesn’t sug­ar­coat any­thing; there are no clear heroes and vil­lains or right and wrong an­swers.

Morals are tested as the film de­liv­ers a se­ries of “what would you do?” ques­tions with po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic global im­pli­ca­tions.

It doesn’t hurt ei­ther when you’ve got act­ing roy­alty hover­ing over the trig­ger but­ton and Mir­ren gives her finest turn since 2012’s Hitch­cock as a con­vinc­ing, bat­tle-hard­ened sol­dier with an un­yield­ing com­mit­ment to her country in a role orig­i­nally writ­ten for a man.

There’s a tinge of sad­ness too as Eye in the Sky marks the fi­nal big screen ap­pear­ance of the late Alan Rick­man (Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Frank Ben­son) and it’s a fit­tingly fine farewell for the beloved Lon­doner.

Aaron Paul (Steve Watts) de­serves credit for keep­ing up with his more ex­pe­ri­enced co-stars. His emo­tional, re­luc­tant to put an in­no­cent to death, Amer­i­can drone pi­lot is his best postBreak­ing Bad ef­fort by a country mile.

At times the bunker ban­ter and talky stylings evoke mem­o­ries of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove but don’t go in ex­pect­ing smirks and satire – this is se­ri­ous busi­ness.

A movie fea­tur­ing peo­ple sit­ting around and ar­gu­ing while watch­ing video screens might not sound like the most ex­cit­ing way to spend an hour and 40 min­utes, so it’s a tes­ta­ment to Hib­bert’s story and the well-rounded char­ac­ters that your at­ten­tion is never di­verted away from what’s hap­pen­ing on screen.

Hood keeps his film­ing style vi­brant too, shoot­ing his tight lo­ca­tions from just about ev­ery an­gle and util­is­ing all the tools of mod­ern war­fare, in­clud­ing satel­lite and drone cam­eras and fa­cial-recog­ni­tion soft­ware.

Only the odd dip into au­di­ence ma­nip­u­la­tion ter­ri­tory and the im­plau­si­bly fre­quent dan­ger­ous sce­nar­ios the young girl finds her­self in fail to hit the tar­get.

A white-knuckle ride with pow­er­ful per­for­mances, Eye in the Sky is a thought-pro­vok­ing look be­hind the cur­tain of mod­ern war­fare.

Head­ing for war He­len Mir­ren’s Colonel Pow­ell

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