Eye In The Sky (2015)
I am late to this one, and was lucky to catch it on a free film channel. I have seen and reviewed a very similar film made in the same year, ‘Good Kill’. But this one has a cast of British heavyweight actors, alongside some popular Americans who I don’t really know. When I see a cast list including Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Ian Glenn, and Alan Rickman, (in his last film) then you can be sure I am going to watch it.
Mirren stars as a British Army colonel working at the intelligence centre at Northwood, close to London. She was 70 when the film was made, so something of a stretch to believe that she would still be on active service, though she carries that off very well. She has been obsessed with destroying a fundamentalist terrorist cell, headed by two British citizens, and operating around the countries in East Africa. Using observation drones, and Kenyan undercover operatives on the ground, she is delighted to discover that all three of her targets are together in one house, in a suburb of Nairobi.
The action then splits to various locations. In Nevada, we see the American drone operating crew who will observe the area and the suspects, as well as carrying out any agreed strike. Back in Kenya, the local special forces commander has a group waiting to carry out a capture if necessary, and in far-off Hawaii, a young American army specialist is manning her facial recognition machine, to confirm identities of the suspects. In a room in central London, important government ministers and officials are gathering, to watch the capture of the suspects unfold live on screen. All of this is controlled centrally from Northwood, by Colonel Powell. (Mirren)
I caught on fairly quickly that this was to be about one event. I started to wonder if the film was ambitious in that regard, trying to maintain my interest for 102 minutes about one incident. But it did, and was very tense at times. The swapping of locations is never confusing, and the interplay between the characters and the action shown on large screens is always linear. The plot deals with the behind the scenes dilemmas surrounding authorisation of captures or missile strikes, and shows us the way that decisions are ‘referred up’ and the buck is passed, as various characters remain indecisive when faced with the possible recriminations of their actions.
The footage supposed to be from the drones is completely convincing, and the use of technology is not only very interesting, it is believable too. One example is a tiny camera disguised as a flying insect, and operated by a Kenyan undercover agent, using a Nintendo game control. Great stuff. The Kenyan/African cast all do a great job too, and the filming locations in South Africa pass off admirably for the seedier side of Nairobi. Helen Mirren is as solid as ever, but still feels a bit too ‘Mirren’ for my liking. Issues of ‘collateral damage’ are discussed, and the moral implications of drone strikes are addressed.
This is a serious film, with high levels of tension, and still very relevant in the modern world.
I recommend it, and together with ‘Good Kill’, it is a fine example of a modern war film, where a war is fought by remote control.
The trailer looks ‘blank’, but it does play when you click on the arrow.