<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Gavin Hood. Starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Kim Engelbrecht, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Bob Chappell, Babou Ceesay
Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes
A somewhat dreary look at the pros and cons of using drones to kill the bad guys while trying to minimise ‘collateral damage’.
So we’ve seen it before and we all know about drones. Heck, kids have them nowadays, they get them right out of Hamleys. Of course the drones in question are bigger and carry Hell Fire missiles that can destroy an enemy target without any need for human ground intervention. A bit cowardly but totally justified by the West to avoid having their men killed. And then of course they have to justify killing innocent civilians in the bargain; they even have a statistical system that tells them what amount of people are okay to be killed as part of ‘collateral damage’.
In Eye In The Sky, some bad guys are holed up somewhere in Africa and the Brits lead by Colonel Powell (Helen Mirren) at an underground station command a mission with American drone pilots – who sit on the ground with joysticks and screens waiting to press buttons – to get these terrorists. But a little girl selling bread made by her mother sets up shop nearby and conscience kicks in. Colonel Powell must ‘refer to higher’ powers in the form of General Benson (Alan Rickman) and other government officials sitting in a room trying to decide what to do: “What’s the decision minister?” is something you’ll hear Alan Rickan asking a lot during the film.
Of course there’s tension building up as they try and remove the little girl from the area and the American drone pilots do their bit to stall pressing the button. They tear up and shake and do all the things you know real American drone pilots probably don’t do. You also hope that the government and military don’t have such horribly coordinated missions and such terrible decision-making abilities. Or maybe you do, considering that’s what prolonged the situation to help the little girl out.
Eye In The Sky isn’t a case for or against using remote military action. It just tries and shows us the agony and the burden of conscience that some must go through, probably on a daily basis in matters that involve killing a few to save a lot.
This is the late Alan Rickman’s last film (and is dedicated to him) but he really has little to do. Even so, he’s good at that and manages to provide some lighter moments in this very serious movie that probably simplifies the actual process that takes place in these high-risk situations. Helen Mirren’s character is flat as she lobbies to kill the terrorists no matter what. It’s great that the film has focus in the location and the motivation of the characters but that confusion of decision-making that they try and convey just seems amateurish and unbelievable.