EYE IN THE SKY takes a tense look at the controversial use of unmanned drones in the ongoing (unending?) battle against militant extremists. In this case that fight hinges on the decision to rain Hellfire missiles onto a structure in a Kenyan slum where Al Shabaab terrorist leaders are meeting to organize suicide bombings. Thousands of miles away, British and American military personnel and civilian policy makers argue over legality, proportion, timing, consequence and conscience. In Kenya, allied ground agents are in mortal danger and oblivious innocent civilians are in the ‘collateral damage range’.
Written by Guy Hibbert with the focus on smarts instead of muscle, it’s directed at a brisk click by Gavin Hood, using a mix of location work (South Africa doubling for the no-doubt displeased East African kleptocracy) and neat special effects to buffer the low-key but impassioned human dramatics. The acting is excellent, led by Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman (his last appearance), Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi and Jeremy Northam.
Lot’s of questions with no easy answers, it zeroes in on the human cost of long-distance finger-touch warfare, put in the guise of a clock-is-ticking thriller. Playing down the middle, it may deter lefties from tuning in because it skirts The Big Why & For Whom picture and deftly but safely concentrates on the How & When, while mouth-breathing right-wingers will cough up their tater tots at the moral quandaries, feel cheated that there aren’t more cool explosions and that they have to actually think for more than ten seconds. Rather surprising, then, that there was enough of an audience for a $33,000,000 take, compensating for a lean, well-used $13,000,000 budget. Braced for tiresome rah-rah and Clancyesque lip-smacking over gadgets, I was impressed by both the bickering and the ballistics.*
With Iain Glenn, Phoebe Fox, Monica Dolan, Aisha Takow, Richard McCabe, Babou Ceesay, Vusi Kunene and Michael O’Keefe. 102 minutes.
*30% of the US military’s drone operators have been treated for PTSD. No doubt some really bad bad-guys have suddenly awakened in
someplace extra hot Paradise thanks to remote control justice. Who knows how many innocents have perished with them while going about their daily lives? Will they replace costly, historically bypassed armies? How accurate is ‘precise’? Is there anywhere left where anyone can hide? What should give everyone pause regarding these technological marvels of mayhem and seemingly invincible harpies of privacy is that their cold practicality and lethal aloofness are in the hands and on the trigger fingers of that same emotional mammal that brought us the machine gun and H-bombs. So… it kinda comes down to who is making the decisions, why they’re doing it and on which column of what current list your name is entered. Like that’s not terrifying? Or, well….