Eye in the Sky: a white-knuckle suspense film that weighs the cost of war

a still from the film

Eye in the Sky: a white-knuckle suspense film that weighs the cost of war

Drone warfare is a moral grey area, and this movie completely gets that right.

In fact, Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky is an edge-of-your-seat thriller throughout primarily because it offers its audience a framework for critically thinking about modern drone warfare and its consequences. (It's also quite rare for a movie to be able to wring so much tension from shots of people staring at screens and talking on the phone.)

For years, UK Colonel Katherine Powell (Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren) has been tracking a radicalised British citizen, and American drones have finally located her target inside a safe house in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Two on-the-ground spies, one played by Oscar-nominated actor Barkhad Abdi, provide backup support by flying two micro-drones - shaped like a bird and a beetle - onto the properties where the terrorists are meeting.

But when surveillance footage shows that the militant group is preparing suicide vests for an imminent attack, a trigger-happy Powell turns her capture mission into an order to kill.

But just as American drone pilot Steve Watts (Emmy Award-winner Aaron Paul) is about to launch the deadly Hellfire missile from a bunker in Nevada, a little girl enters the kill zone to sell bread to make money for her family.

Her presence sparks a debate about the strike's morality and legality at all levels of the US and UK governments, which ropes in UK Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman in his final on-screen role).

alan rickman eye in the sky embed

A still from the film

It creates a domino effect: more leaders are pulled in, more views are challenged.

That was the most fascinating part of the movie: seeing the group's kaleidoscope of opinions; each person passionately makes their case for either shooting or not shooting the Hellfire missile.

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It is a stark and intricate look at how war in the 21st century is waged. As a result of Mirren and Rickman's performances, we see what baggage leaders bring into these split-second moral decisions, and as a result of Aaron Paul's performance, we see what baggage young drone pilots and soldiers will walk away with after pressing a button that unleashes a rain of destruction.

And we, the audience, walk away with the feeling that the world is more grey now than it ever was.

RATING: 3.75 out of 5

Aleesha Matharu

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu