This week from director Gavin Hood, Bleeker Street and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment comes the difficult decisions even with an “Eye in the Sky.”
Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has been on a six-year mission to discover the whereabouts of Susan Danford and another British citizen who are part of a terrorist cell. Through Intel she discovers they are in Kenya and she must mobilize from every angle to capture them alive to stand trial.
In London is Lt. General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) who gathers Jack Cleary (Francis Chouler), George Matherson (Richard McCabe), Angela Northman (Monica Dolan) and Brian Woodale (Jeremy Northam) to see that the mission is accomplished from their meeting room.
On the ground in Kenya are Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) and Damisi (Ebby Weyime) disguised in a repair truck keeping tabs on the house where their targets are suspected of being.
Leading the drones in Nevada is Lt. Walsh (Gavin Hood) and at the controls is Pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Pilot Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox). Their mission is to keep an eye on the target and be prepared.
When those in question suddenly leave the original target house, plans begin to change. Col. Powell must think fast to stay with the group as they move into another part of Kenya that is controlled by unfriendly forces. Getting Jama in close enough they discover that the group is planning a massive attack and the mission changes status.
Preparing for a drone strike is imminent until young Alia (Aisha Takow) walks into the danger zone to sell her bread. Now the group must decide what can be done to give her a chance to leave the area.
Now the questions begin about the right of the strike, what is acceptable and is saving one ensure the safety of others and will that decision happen in time?
Mirren at Col. Powell is such a strong character here. Driven by her need to finally see the end game she will let nothing stop her from completing this mission. As the decision become more and more complicated, she is struck with the task of doing her job yet making it acceptable to her country, the Americans and those in Kenya. Mirren doesn’t have much of a poker face which makes her performance so very strong.
Rickman as Lt. Benson is a military man deep in his core. He understands the risks and the consequences and his final statements toward the end of the film is very though provoking. His job is to protect his countrymen and sometimes that job is one no one else can even think of doing. Watching his characters resolve, I imagine many a military man has had to keep focused while others debate.
Paul as Pilot Watts understands his job but sees a little girl playing and selling bread and is overcome with what he is about to do. Also affected is Fox as Gershon who just wants to give the little girl more time and its time they do not have.
Abdi as Jama Farah has gone to the other extreme. As Muse the boat-capturing terrorist in “Captain Phillips,” Abdi gave a performance no one who has seen the film will forget. In “Eye in the Sky” as Jama, he is on the other side of the coin as a man who wants to stop terrorists and uses his ingenuity and skill to discover their plans. He even does what he must to help the young girl selling her bread. Once again, a solid performance.
McCabe as Matheson knows that the game has changed but the players are still the same. The problem is the more people question it, the more pressure he feels not wanting to be held accountable. That may seem harsh but he isn’t the only character as Northam as Woodale goes through the same process. It is Dolan as Northman who begins the passing the buck process that seems endless.
Other cast include Faisa Hassan as Fatima Mo’Allim, Armaan Haggio as Musa, Babou Ceesay as Sgt. Mushtaq Saddiq, Carl Beukes as Sgt. Mike Gleeson, Kim Engelbrecht as Lucy Galvez, Lex King as Susan Danford and Iain Glen as James Willett.
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The Bluray, DVD and Digital HD Bonus Features include “Perspective” Featurette: Actress Helen Mirren, Director Gavin Hood, and Producer Colin Firth explain how the film serves as a mechanism for discussion on the moral conflict surrounding drone warfare. “Morals” Featurette: There’s more at stake than meets the eye. Actress Helen Mirren, Director Gavid Hood, and producer Colin Firth discuss the moral and ethical questions raised in the film.
“Eye in the Sky” begs the question of both sides — how do we define collateral damage when both hands are tied by the actions of terrorism? The film attempts to understand the military need to stop a disaster or the one small person who deserves to live as well.
I will admit this film kept rocking my emotions back and forth like a nervous cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Both argue their side and the impasse in which they find themselves is emotional to the core. This is where the conversation of this film will be on each of us to have.
In the end — welcome to the new front line!