EYE IN THE SKY (Entertainment One)
Dir. Gavin Hood, Script. Guy Hibbert
Cast: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi
Plot: An array of military and political figures argue over a drone strike that, if carried out, may cause the death of an unarmed girl.
Watching Eye In The Sky is at times a haunting experience. To describe it in short, its a bit like watching a 90-minute, real-time panic attack; everybody who could make a choice is too scared to, or at worst considers it disadvantageous to their own political images or goals. You can view all of the dilemmas, ethical and political, in your own way and with your own interpretation, but make no mistake: director Gavin Hood ensures that you are, and will feel, totally powerless to stop the modern hell unfolding on screen. To summarise, this is some film.
What makes it all the more haunting is watching a man putting in a shift even from beyond the grave. When Alan Rickman, one of the greatest British actors of his generation, suddenly died before his time, I and many others were understandably shocked and heartbroken. I am glad to say that his final on-screen performance (his voice can be found in Alice Through The Looking Glass) is a remarkable testament to the actor he was. Rickman is placed right at the centre of this ethical nightmare, and he has such an underlying power when talking to those in the way of his aim for the mission (the twists and turns of which I feel it is inappropriate to spoil). His final scenes are truly difficult to watch – but it is so fulfilling to see Rickman leave us with a wonderful, forceful parting gift.
But even better, he’s just one little bit of why Eye In The Sky works so well: the lead performances are all really solid. Helen Mirren puts in a typically strong performance, but this is not bread-and-butter Helen Mirren whatsoever – she is fiercely driven, at times so driven that she does things very much pushing the moral envelope. It’s kind of like what would happen if Helen Mirren did an impression of Judi Dench’s M, but Mirren adds to that with an undercurrent you might not be such a fan of. Aaron ‘We get it, he’s a bitch’ Paul plays a drone pilot with the biggest choice of them all – firing the missile. Paul is very good here, and its easy to tell that Eye In The Sky wants you to identify with him the most; with all the politics around him, its the normal men who have to push the trigger, and Paul embodies that fantastically. And it’s great to see Barkhad ‘I’m the captain now’ Abdi play a spy on the ground with massive energy too. All the more remarkably, with the film’s lines of communication being digital, the four main actors never even met on set.
Technically, Eye In The Sky is as taut as it is tense, with Guy Hibbert’s screenplay occasionally getting a little overstuffed with information, but for the most part a lovely bit of work. His dialogue is well thought-out, every line linking right back to the central conflict, and he isn’t afraid to be a little satirical at times either. The direction (from Gavin Hood, the director of the movie that disgraces Deadpool (sidenote within a sidenote: thank god for this year’s Deadpool) so much you’ll feel like you’ve been cheated on, X-Men Origins Wolverine, making this film even more remarkable) is really well done too, with Hood maintaining a consistent tone throughout. He has a really good hold of the narrative, and knows just when to escalate the tension and when to let his audience have a sometimes much-needed breather from the philosophical conflicts on screen.
The editing is pretty cerebral, as is the overall plot, which definitely brings the conflict straight into your mind – Hood wants everyone watching to feel like they have just as much culpability, regardless of what side they take in an impossible decision. Also, the first and last shots of the film truly remind you of what’s at stake, and believe me, they’ll stick in your head for a few hours afterward. Overall then, I really liked Eye In The Sky, because it puts you right into the headspace of the film’s characters – the conflict is viewed through a screen within a screen, in the comfort (or if you’re 6’4″ and sit in ODEON Standard seating, not as much) of your fold-back cinema seat. You’re never told about the personalities of the people who may die – maybe its best you don’t know. The overarching feeling I had was to run, run away from that choice and put it to people better qualified. But even they, as this terrific thriller proves, might not be the right people for the job. Who is?
BEST WATCHED: Go down to the cinema and feel guilty, right now.
Helen Mirren is currently filming drama Collateral Beauty alongside Will Smith and Keira Knightley, set for release near the holiday season. Aaron Paul’s got quite a schedule lined up, with five movies at various stages of development, but the most notable I can think of is a role in Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, along with Sean ‘Died In The First Season’ Bean, and Lena ‘Should Have Died In The First Season’ Headey. Abdi has a few independent films lined up, and of course, Alan Rickman’s voice will bellow for the final time in cinemas in Alice Through The Looking Glass.