War movies are innately patriotic, and for good reason. We need to know that our hard-serving men and women on the front lines are not only protecting our country, but that their sacrifice will inspire those watching to join the defense force themselves. It’s this kind of pride that elevated films like Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper into such major critical and commercial hits. So, what happens when a film loses that patriotism, and shows the more sinister side of war and the hard to swallow choices we need to make? I can’t imagine a better answer to that question than the film Eye in the Sky, the Gavin Hood directed drone film that is equal parts horrifying and gripping.
Eye in the Sky follows multiple parties of military personnel, starting with Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), who is a military officer in charge of a Kenyan mission to kill known terrorists that have eluded the army. With the help of those on the ground (Barkhad Abdi), the pilots of drones watching from the air (the proverbial ‘Eye in the Sky’ flown by Aaron Paul), and various higher ups in the military and politics (Alan Rickman in his last performance), a kill order has been given to take out an entire group of known terrorists. However, when a young innocent girl wanders into the kill zone, questions about modern warfare and how much a life should cost are raised.
What makes this film so immediately gripping is that the core of this film works in real time. Credit then to Gavin Hood’s direction (finally making up for X-Men Origins: Wolverine a few years back) and the editing team for not allowing the tension to ever slow down, as each second feels important and immensely thrilling. As characters both on the ground and watching from above comment on these events you can’t help but lose track of time itself. The decision on whether to attack and potentially kill an innocent for a perceived ‘greater good’ never grows stale as the situation consistently escalates in a very real way.
Adding to this intensity are the characters themselves, who act as a sort of ink blot test. Viewers will be divided by who they agree with; maybe you think taking out high risk terrorists when you can even at the risk of a young girl is too big a chance to pass up. Or maybe you believe pulling the trigger makes you no worse than your enemies, and the great thing about this movie is that it doesn’t really judge the audience for how they think. There’s a calculated tightrope the team behind this movie walks which feels as though every character was treated and filmed as if they were the hero. In a weird way they all are, and this adds credence to the events taking place.
Eye in the Sky is best enjoyed knowing nothing about the particular characters beliefs, or knowing what the actual situation is that we are watching, hence why this review is so vague, because the movie relishes it’s little reveals, it’s tiny victories, and the life changing decisions that come with them. As a story, it will leave many walking out talking and discussing who they sided with, who they hated but most of all, leave them shell shocked about such a terrifying task the military can have.
Eye in the Sky is available to own on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital Download July 20th. Further details can be found on the Entertainment One website.
SUMMARY: In terms of war movies, Eye in the Sky is more concerned about the machinations of the military than the overall reason for war. While this may seem like an odd way to tackle the subject matter, a suspenseful script, matched by the confident and intense energy from Director Gavin Hood and the entire ensemble, Eye in the Sky becomes a modern spy thriller that deserves to be viewed by all eyes either on the ground or above.
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John Wood is most known for being opinionated loudly in public but choosing the silent option in Telltale games. Usually found hidden in the corner of the nearest cinema, John is passionate about film and his childhood love in Nintendo.