Tweetable Takeaway: Suspense and tough situations make #EyeintheSky a gripping film from beginning to end Tweet
Too often, drone warfare in movies requires the story to spend a lot time focusing on robots or artificial intelligence of some kind. More rare is to find a film that deals realistically with drone warfare without throwing robotic soldiers and CGI explosions into the mix. Which is unfortunate, because EYE IN THE SKY shows us we can have intelligent movies about modern warfare that involve drones. Although the majority of the movie is focused on people talking in rooms while watching monitors, it’s a relentlessly gripping movie-going experience. Superb writing, top-notch acting, and the message about modern warfare Eye in the Sky imparts all contribute to an absolutely terrific film.
Helen Mirren stars as Colonel Katherine Powell. She’s working with American drone operators based near Las Vegas. Aaron Paul plays Steve Watts, in charge of piloting the drone and delivering the payload if necessary, and Phoebe Fox plays Carrie Gershon, who controls the cameras. There are also a group of bureaucrats watching from England, including Alan Rickman as Lt. General Frank Benson, as well as a team on the ground in Kenya, where the mission is taking place. The mission is simple, capture two terrorists. Besides the camera on the drone, the ground team utilizes a nifty camera disguised as a bird to keep tabs on their suspects.
As soon as we’re established in this world, the movie starts to complicate things. First it’s simple things, like the wanted terrorists moving to a new location. Easy enough, just have the camera follow them. When the suspects are in a territory where the surveillance van can’t drive? Have a man go on foot and use a little bug drone. Literally, a bug that flies around with a camera transmitting back images of what it sees. I don’t know if this technology actually exists, but if it doesn’t, it likely won’t be long before it does. The movie continues to ratchet up the tension mercilessly, from every angle, in both major and minor ways. A major turn of events includes discovering that the house with the two suspects contains two suicide vests. Suddenly, the mission turns into a kill instead of a capture. Before that can happen, Powell must check with legal, and get it okayed by the higher ups. Some of the higher ups would rather not make the call, and in turn, send it up even higher. If it didn’t hit so close to home and have real life ramifications, the shifting up and around of culpability would be quite hilarious.
And then the biggest problem of all gets dropped. Deep within the splash zone of the explosion, should they decide to drop it, is a young civilian girl. Once again, everyone has to make the tough call again. And there is no easy answer. The movie has an incredible ability to continuously forcing the viewer to think about what he or she might do in the same situation, and refuses to provide an easy way out. The basic dilemma boils down to whether everyone involved should drop a bomb now and know for certain they’re taking one innocent life, or letting the suicide vests leave and possibly allowing up to 80 other innocent people die. There’s simply no easy answer to the situation, and as we watch each side argue and push off the decision, our fingernails get bitten down to the nub. The movie has an intelligent incorporation of the current trend of grainy video footage popping up online – videos that all of us have watched and shaken our heads at one time or another. If they drop the bomb, kill the girl, and the video of the drone ends up on Youtube, it will be a public relations disaster. However, the same can be said if the video goes online and reveals to the world the people in charge knew about the suicide vests that later went off in a school or a mall. Hindsight is 20/20; it’s easy to cast judgment after the fact. But when you’re stuck in the moment and expected to predict the future? Not so easy, the movie shows us.
The suspense in Eye in the Sky doesn’t let up until the final five or so minutes. Movies like this give weight to the phrase, “edge of your seat.” That’s where viewers will be sitting for most of the film. And when it finally lets up, it leaves moviegoers with a sobering message: Once countries go to war, no matter what means are taken, whether it’s fought in the trenches or by air, close combat or miles away controlling drones, there are no longer good guys and bad guys. There are no true winners. Humanity loses every time. There won’t be a happy ending that fades into the credits of Eye in the Sky. Don’t expect to leave with a smile, but do expect introspection, and conversations between those who have seen it. With any luck, maybe those conversations will lead to some real change someday.
I give Eye In The Sky 4.5 bug drones out of 5
Score: 4.5 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor