Eye in the Sky
Time Out says
Helen Mirren and an ensemble cast bring chops to a military nailbiter that could have used a clearer vision
This drone drama arrives so steeped in the clichés of the Hollywood terror-plot actioner – barking generals, truckloads of jihadis, a faintly exotic soundtrack – that it initially almost feels comical. Writer Guy Hibbert ('Omagh') and director Gavin Hood ('X-Men Origins: Wolverine') then spend the next 102 minutes conscientiously subverting those overused tropes, with varying degrees of success.
Helen Mirren is all business and shoulder pads as General Katherine Powell, a British officer overseeing antiterror operations in Kenya. When two of her most wanted targets appear at a safe house in Nairobi, she lobbies for an immediate American drone strike. But operating pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) isn’t so sure – especially when he realises that the shack next door is home to a little girl so adorable she may as well have the words 'innocent victim' tattoed on her forehead. The stage is set for a battle of wills and shifting legalities, as Powell’s higher-ups all attempt to palm off the hot potato, refusing responsibility either for the child’s life or for the many others at risk if the terrorists are allowed to escape.
The strongest element here is a rich seam of murky 'Dr Strangelove' humour – the buck-passing antics of cunning army liaison Alan Rickman and his cronies are theatrically hilarious. There are moments of well-judged tension, too, particularly after we meet a Kenyan operative on the ground: as he proved in 'Captain Philips', Barkhad Abdi is a master of out-of-his-depth-but-holding-it-together bluster.
But when it targets the emotions, 'Eye in the Sky' veers wide. Paul overplays the square-jawed good guy role, while the inevitably tragic final scenes are scored with syrupy strings and vague ethnic warbling. The result is one of the better War on Terror movies, but that’s not exactly a shining endorsement: there’s wit, integrity and insight here, but it cries out for a lighter touch.
Cast and crew