Friday, March 11, 2016

Movie with Abe: Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky
Directed by Gavin Hood
Released March 11, 2016

Military engagement in foreign countries has been the subject of numerous films and television shows, be it fictional, based on fact, or documentary. Drone warfare is a more specific subtopic that played into the fourth season of “Homeland” and has been featured elsewhere as a hot and highly contested issue. “Eye in the Sky” presents a fictional dramatization of a situation in which an imminent threat presents itself but complicating factors threaten to ruin the entire operation, taking audiences through the layers of approval and rationalization that are needed to pull off a deadly and definitive strike.

“Eye in the Sky” introduces four primary protagonists, who are each in a different place and a different role. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is the British officer in charge of the capture of two highly-wanted terrorists whose actions put them directly in the range of a missile that could easily take them out. Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) sits in a room with high-ranking government officials who have the power to give the go-ahead for the mission. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is the drone pilot sitting in Las Vegas with his finger on the trigger. Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) is the agent on the ground in Nairobi, Kenya, who is forced to go in to try to diffuse the situation when a little girl sets up shop selling bread within the blast range of the intended target.

“Eye in the Sky” is a deconstructed experience, one that shows every level and step needed to release one missile. Things change quickly, as a capture mission is transformed into a potential drone strike once suicide vests and massive artillery are detected within the home where the terrorists are meeting. The unfortunate arrival of a certain civilian casualty prompts each group to question the validity and ethical quality of the operation and proceed accordingly. Similar to the cinematic trope of the literal ticking time bomb, this may not be how things play out in reality, but this is a fitting and thrilling moral exercise.

This shouldn’t be a termed an action movie, but might better be described as a suspense-laden drama. The performers are all up to the task, each appearing in scenes filmed completely separately but woven seamlessly together by sharp editing by Megan Gill. Mirren is an obvious fit for the determined military commander who doesn’t want ethics to hold her back, while Paul matches up just right as a kindhearted pilot driven by sentimentality. The late Rickman is dryly endearing in his final live action performance, and Abdi proves that “Captain Phillips” wasn’t a fluke with an appropriately subtle and nuanced performance. It’s hard to know how to feel after finishing this film, but it’s clear that this layered drama from the director of the similarly-themed “Rendition,” Gavin Hood, does its due diligence in crafting a complex and thought-provoking exploration of the legitimacy of military engagement.


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