Eye in the Sky will keep your eyes on the screen: the future of war may be remote-controlled, but director Gavin Hood proves it’s no less devastating.
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Eye in the Sky recruits Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), a determined military officer, to command a top secret drone mission in Kenya. Aiding her are Lieutenant Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), and undercover agent Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi). Upon eavesdropping in an extremist safe house, they learn of the terrorists’ plan to execute a suicide bombing. Powell’s objective is shifted to dropping a missile on the hideaway, but the entrance of a young girl into the kill zone creates an international dispute with very complicated political and moral ramifications.
How do you resurrect a once-great director’s flailing career? The answer, it would seem, is to just add drones. It worked for Andrew Niccol, who bounced back from the woeful In Time and The Host with the Ethan Hawke led Good Kill. INow it’s even more successful for South African director Gavin Hood. After this 2005 breakthrough Tsotsi and the government torture intrigue of Rendition, Hood’s attempted shift to the blockbuster franchise realm found him fizzling out with misfires X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Ender’s Game. Thankfully, he’s back in his comfort zone – dealing with the politics of warfare – and it very clearly shows.
Last decade, the war genre enjoyed something of a renaissance in the wake of 9/11. Since then there has been a huge drop in armed conflict output from Hollywood – so far Zero Dark Thirty has been the only standout of the 2010’s. Gavin Hood makes his effort stick by downplaying the dazzle and fireworks and ramping up the tension and suspense to extreme levels. The entire film is essentially a single situation, but it’s incredibly engaging, edge-of-your-seat stuff, and invites its audience to weigh in on its stressful, ethical debacle.
We’re barely given the chance to breathe between each high intensity complication the jeopardised mission faces. Guy Hibbert’s super-tight script never loses focus of its primary target, but does pepper the proceedings with a surprisingly hefty sprinkling of humour, which does add some much needed relief between the anxiety-inducing apprehensions.
The terrific ensemble cast are what really make it all work so well. Though they are never actually in the same room as one another, each is a key player in the high-stakes metaphorical chess game, and each bounces off the other with the kind of chemistry few close-proximity pieces can boast. The always outstanding Helen Mirren is ruthless as Powell, unflinchingly willing to obliterate the girl if it means taking out the terrorists. Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul shows emotional prowess as the soldier controlling the missile, and it’s great to see Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi in another role capable of his talents.
The real joy here though, comes from seeing the late, great Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role (we’ll hear his voice again later this year as the caterpillar in Alice Through The Looking Glass); the dry wit his General exhumes as he tackles interfering politicians is riveting, and a testament to a brilliant actor the world of film will miss dearly.
The outcome of it all is shocking and unexpected, and bound to leave audiences stunned e. Welcome to the first truly great war film in years – and welcome back to the frontline, Gavin Hood.
Eye In The Sky is available in Australian cinemas from March 24th
Image (c) Entertainment One Films Australia 2016