By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a downbeat one. It’s downbeat in terms of narrative and also for a certain cast member of Eye In The Sky.
This film will be Alan Rickman’s last ever feature film now he has sadly passed away a couple of months ago. The other downbeat reason is the crazy world we live in - this will become clearer later.
I’m so glad I caught this film in a great independent cinema that is all about the art and culture, exactly what Alan Rickman oozed. It seemed fitting to catch this move at the Phoenix cinema in Leicester…
Eye In The Sky focuses on Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. She sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.
The premise doesn’t really do this film justice. It’s a multi-layered film with an ensemble cast. The drama-thriller admirable depicts drone warfare with exquisite cinematography. Not only is this film shot in real-time over the course of a two hour mission, but you also get the viewpoints from multiple angles. We see politicians, soldiers and generals on different scales of seniority authorising decisions on a missile strike thousands of miles away.
The film is set over four locations. We have Helen Mirren on the outskirts of London, the late, great Alan Rickman in Whitehall, the assistance of drone pilot Aaron Paul in Nevada and a team of on the ground spies in Nairobi led by Barkhad Abdi. As we flip between countries, a moral dilemma unfolds – this is where the film comes alive.
The film is quite slow-burning, if not on the dull side, until the key decision kicks off. Once the terrorists are located and an air strike is at first agreed, it poses the audience a question. Should the drone, thousands of feet in the air, drop a missile causing havoc but effectively doing the job? Or should the mission be called off due to too many civilians being around the target area including a helpless little girl?
That moral question lingers throughout the latter part of the film. What’s most intriguing is how the writer Guy Hibbert makes the audience flip between the trigger. At one point you’re fully behind Helen Mirren when you see the explosive belts being made, but once you see the little girl selling bread – you let go of the metaphorical trigger straight away.
As heartfelt and tense as this film is, it’s still laboured in parts. The acceleration of certain scenes is also undone by slow office sequences that hinder the fluidty of the film. There are too many black-comedy lines throughout. I understand its pointing the finger at how many walls people must go through to make a decision, but at the end of the day it’s a very important issue. Alan Rickman’s wry humour is enough for the film to give it another dimension but too many people take that stance. Rickman’s humour is accompanied by his sympathy for humanity and it just clicks for his character. Alan is also given the closing line of the film - it’s emotive and poignant. He makes a potentially lifeless role become the highlight of the drama – standard Alan Rickman.
Eye In The Sky is intelligently made and is certainly an adequate thriller, but because it is clunky in areas, it just doesn’t have the impact a film like this should have. One thing is for certain though, it scares you for the future. If we all feared the nuclear bomb threat over the past decade or two, we should start considering drone warfare as an equivalent concern.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
Eye In The Sky (certificate 15) was screened at the Phoenix Cinema in Leicester over the past five days. Check out what else the Phoenix are screening here.