Helen Mirren stars as a high ranking colonel in charge of a major global operation to capture the most wanted terrorists in the Middle East. From her command post in Sussex, England, she coordinates the mission alongside the American air force in Nevada and ground troops in Kenya, and finds herself in a unique position to launch an air strike that would take out all three major targets, as well as two imminent suicide bomb attacks. What was to be a simple and decisive action becomes complicated when a civilian child walks into the target-zone and puts the mission into a precarious state of political and ethical unrest.
It is a compelling and thoroughly engaging military thriller that examines modern warfare and presents compelling arguments for both sides of the discussion. Throughout the course of the events the question of proportion is constantly reiterated. Is one child's life worth sacrificing for the sake of preventing an attack that would potentially kill hundreds? As the story unfolds the audience is kept in a perpetual state of uncertainty while the various levels of command argue over the moral, legal and political consequences. Meanwhile the window of opportunity to strike is increasingly narrowed and the likeliness of a preventable terrorist attack is increased.
Mirren is joined by a solid lineup up support players, none which share any screen time. Alan Rickman - in his final on screen performance - is outstanding as the higher ranking Lieutenant General overseeing the operation from a London conference room alongside key government figures. He commands the screen with a subtle authority that is at times as chilling as it is compassionate. Aaron Paul plays the American drone pilot tasked with pulling the trigger, and struggles with the moral implications of personally killing a child under strict orders. Barkhad Abdi follows up his terrifying performance in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS with an antithetical performance as an undercover agent on the ground, who must find a way to put eyes inside the terrorist compound.
Director Gavin Hood has kept the film effectively contained and maintains a constant level of tension throughout its 102-minute running time. He divides the film amongst four points of operation and pin-balls between them effortlessly. He also presents an in-depth look at modern warfare, and technical operations that prove to be so incredible that you question where fact and fiction actually blur. The technology used for this chilling intelligence operation is staggering and it is both scary and reassuring to know that such incredible capabilities exist.
EYE IN THE SKY is a simple premise that facilitates a complex discussion. In fact is plays out similarly to films like FAIL SAFE and DETERRENCE, but rather than taking a strong position, it puts the onus of morality on the viewer. The engagement of direct action is not as simple as “do” or “don't” and the consequences of either side are as equally catastrophic. What a fucked up world we live in, huh!?