Don’t ever tell a soldier he doesn’t know the cost of war.
In Eye in the Sky, we have a brilliant thriller, a political drama, a war story and a meditation on the morality of action and inaction. The story revolves around something incredibly simple, a drone strike in Africa. But as the film unfolds, we some to see that all of the cogs and wheels in the machinery of this mission are people, human beings. As such, they have a tendency to be unsure and surety is the one thing most necessary when a trigger is pulled. The film isn’t pedantic and it doesn’t preach. At various times, you’ll find your allegiance to the position you agree with wavering. What this film seems to be saying is that in our modern time of war the choice is often between two wrongs, not a wrong and a right. And when it is two wrongs on the table, it becomes a question of which is themost wrong and the division on that point is likely to be more intense than if it was a question of right and wrong. No plot details here; you need to experience this film as it unfolds. A word for the astoundingly great cast. Helen Mirren is brilliant as a hawkish Colonel driven to distraction by the hoops she has to jump through in order to commit any kind of action. Jeremy Northam is particularly great as a waffling politician; been a long time since I saw him, but he’s fantastic. Aaron Paul is nothing short of Oscar worthy as the morally and emotionally conflicted drone pilot. And a word for Alan Rickman, the great Alan Rickman, who turns in just one more great performance for us to remember; his performance is minimal and completely unaffected, but it’s masterful. He finds a way to humanize the character he plays, a harried General, with quiet moments between the lines. It’s one of his most naturalistic performances and made me miss him with renewed sadness. And a special word for Aisha Takow who gives an incredibly natural and seamless child performance. It’s a performance that could have hindered the movie immensely, but instead her performance helps the film to really soar. The rest of the ensemble is great as well, right down to the ground. Barkhad Abdi, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Monica Dolan, Richard McCabe . . . some of these are small parts, but they’re played perfectly. And it all comes down to the simple question of where we draw our moral lines; these performances make the questions feel as urgent and compelling as they actually are. It’s a compelling look at the unprecedented way war is waged today and as such it feels absolutely vivid and of the moment; but the storytelling, directing, performances and moral dilemmas are as timeless as the oldest stories we have. The eye in the sky used to be God; now it’s us and the question is how do we handle the elevation? 4 stars.
tl;dr – suspenseful, intense thriller is also a gripping examination of the morality of modern warfare; a great cast invigorates a brilliant premise. 4 stars.