Eye in the Sky Review: The Cost of War

Photo Credit:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/movie/eye_in_the_sky/

For most of its pleasantly brisk runtime, Eye in the Sky walks a thin line between both sides of the drone argument. As the film strings together it’s disappointingly thin characters, we hear varying opinions from the wide ensemble. It’s clear that director Gavin Hood intends to have us thinking right off the bat, which works both for an against him. There’s not a whole lot of subtlety to Eye in the Sky, which tricks you into thinking it has an objective opinion, but the truth lies deeper.

The story follows soldiers, generals, politicians, advisers, commanders, and citizens through the decision on one particular drone strike, being worked on by both the Americans and the British. As the targets gather in a house in a small town in Nairobi, Kenya, the drone stays overhead, ready to unleash hell at the click of a button. But a little girl selling bread parks herself within the estimated blast radius, leading to a legal and ethical stalemate between the lead characters. Sitting at that button is Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), a man clearly uncomfortable with the power he wields. In charge of him is Colonel Powell (Helen Mirren), who’s icy exterior slowly, but never completely, melts away as the situation progresses. Above her is General Benson (the late Alan Rickman in his last live-action role), a man weathered by war.

Hood builds tension incredibly well as we’re taken through the happenings of this single mission. Things change at an admirable pace, never letting situations linger longer than they should. With the impossible decision before the characters, the entire second half of the film feels like an extended climax. Almost like 12 Angry Men over phones and video chats. But unlike that courtroom classic, Eye in the Sky gets tangled in its web of high-stakes scruples. You’re left wondering whether Hood will take a position on the ever-controversial use of drones. And just when it appears we’re clear of such propaganda, he succumbs to a side, and the film suffers for it.

The final moments come off as preachy and manipulative, without a hint of subtlety to ease the audience into this hardly “sub” subtext. For a film reasonably well made, though not without its distracting faults, this is a fatal flaw. With its presentation of arguments and subsequent last-minute choice, Eye in the Sky ends up feeling like a clumsy high school student’s college essay. For a film that gets so deep into real issues of war and morality, its an unfortunate result. Still, there’s enough here for people to ponder, even if the more informed might leave a little uncomfortable with the agenda. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *