I’d have gone to see this flim if only to see Alan Rickman for one last time, but fortunately it is an incredibly well done political thriller that forces the audience to ask some very hard questions about modern warfare. Headlining the wonderful ensemble cast is Helen Mirren playing Colonel Katherine Powell, a British officer on the trail of some of the world’s leading terrorists. Having found three of them in Kenya, she is leading a team of remote surveillance operatives around the world to track and capture them. The film cuts between her team in England, an American drone team near Las Vegas, the group that has the final say at Whitehall in London, and the people on the ground in Nairobi whose lives are on the line, including a Kenyan operative (Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips) who goes undercover in a very dangerous neighborhood. But when the mission changes from capture to kill, and a sweet little girl we’ve met in the opening scene is about to become “collateral damage”, not everyone is on board with the military leaders.
What is fascinating about the film is the way that all the different people view what they are doing differently. The top military want to balance the taking of one innocent life with the people who might be saved. The drone pilot (Aaron Paul) and co-pilot can only see the horror of killing a child. The career government types keep trying to “refer it up” to make someone else deal with the moral and ethical questions that the decision raises. And the beauty of the script is that you can understand all their points of view. The idea that we can now kill someone from a cushy office thousands of miles away is disturbing, but in a world seemingly rife with terrorists, should we ignore the ease of drone technology?
Eye in the Sky keeps you on the edge of your seat and you can’t help but be uncomfortable with what is happening on screen. I’d recommend it to all adult audiences. It needs to be seen and discussed, though I’m not sure that even Talmudic scholars could figure out what is the right path. And Alan Rickman as Lt. General Frank Benson, the lone military man at Whitehall, gives a wonderful final performance.
[Mainstream Chick also covered this film in her last podcast. LISTEN HERE]