Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky” is a tense drama about cost and politics of the war on terrorism. It has an impressive cast, including Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and the late, great Alan Rickman. Sadly, Alan Rickman died in January of this year — he had hidden the fact that he was terminally ill from pancreatic cancer. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about Rickman’s death until the tribute to him in the closing credits in this film.

The film covers a single day. Colonel Katherine Powell, played by Mirren has intelligence that a 3 of the most wanted north African terrorists are soon to gather together in one building in Kenya, and the Kenyan military is ready to mobilize on her word, to raid the location and capture the terrorists. Things quickly go awry and it becomes apparent that a raid would be impractical.  And when it turns out that the terrorists are planning a suicide bombing that day at some unknown location, an alternate plan is hatched to fire missiles at their location from drones. But things get even more complicated when a little girl is spotted in the kill zone of the missiles, and politicians get involved in the decision as to whether or not the attack should proceed.

One thing that the film does really well is to show the mixture of high and low-tech surveillance used to figure out exactly what’s happening with the terrorists. I actually was a lot less intrigued by the political side, which is a big focus of the film. It becomes quite obvious that the film has a very specific point of view that may be a little bit controversial. At first, the politics seems to be presented as a dilemma, but it becomes clear that the film puts its point of view out there in a very obvious way. I’m not going to spoil the film by telling you what that point of view is, just that it is very obvious. My main problem with the movie is that it doesn’t actually explore the controversy more, and instead focuses largely on people passing the buck, covering their asses, unwilling to make the final decision on their own, even when they have the authority to do so.  The controversy is shown in a very simplistic way. And even when it is showing the cost of it all, it seems kind of cheap to me. There is so much more to the war on terrorism that could have been touched on here, but wasn’t.

All that said, the acting is decent, and the movie does a great job of building up the tension, so I will recommend it. It’s not a perfect film, so while I’m not completely enthusiastic about it, I do recommend it. But you may want to wait for it to make its way to Netflix or cable. Just don’t expect a really even-handed discussion of the war on terrorism from it.

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