By Kate Smith
21st March 2016

‘Eye in the Sky’ is a particularly difficult film to write about for two reasons: one, it’s very good, and good movies are always hard to critique; and two, it touches on some very serious subjects that can stir up all sorts of feelings.

The plot revolves around a joint strike mission in northern Africa as Helen Mirren’s Colonel Katherine Powell, the commander of an international intelligence team, finally locates a terrorist in Africa after tracking her for six years. When her team discover a bombing plot, the mission changes from capture to kill. As drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul, ‘Breaking Bad’) prepares to launch missiles, a young girl enters the strike zone. What follows is a tense, nerve-wracking, international debate covering several continents and all levels of government.


As you’d expect from several Academy and Emmy Award winners, the performances are all superb. There’s not a single weak link in the entire cast. Mirren is, of course, brilliant in every line, glance and inflection, as is Alan Rickman in one of his very last roles as Lieutenant General Frank Benson. Jeremey Northam (‘The Tudors’) and Iain Glen (‘Game of Thrones’) are remarkably convincing as the terrified politicians, while Barkhad Abdi (‘Captain Phillips’), Phoebe Fox and Monica Dolan are excellent supporting cast.

I could not fault the direction either. The film moves at a cracking, almost real-time pace, that never lets up on the tension or the frustration. Not a single scene is wasted or slow. The score is excellent and perfectly unobtrusive. The little spy-craft nods are played well, and the minimal special effects are excellent.

As you’d expect from several Academy and Emmy Award winners, the performances are all superb.

While all productions values are top-notch, the most important aspect of this film is the moral and ethical questions raised as some of the most powerful people in the world argue about whether sacrificing one innocent life is worth saving possibly hundreds. The frustration is palpable as Powell chases clearance from politicians to carry out her mission, and every one of them passes the question up. When they eventually get to the Americans, the answer is as unsurprising as you’d expect. Even if clearance is given, Watts is understandably torn when ordered to execute.

When the mission is complete, and the chips have fallen, the reactions from each member of the chain are telling. Watts and Gershon (Fox) are visibly distraught, while Powell is troubled stone and Benson moves on. While ‘Eye in the Sky’ not a tearjerker, it is compelling and provoking. The outcome of the story is far from satisfying, while the film very much is.

This is a powerful and very well-made film, and the subject is just as important as it is troubling. I thoroughly recommend you see it.

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