Eye in the Sky

Apr 17, 2016 | Posted by in Movies
Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky tackles the morality of drones being used to shorten a Kill List as a number of high value targets are discovered meeting in a single location.

Drone Warfare is a hot button issue in modern times with lots of money being spent on these remote controlled machines used to spy and deliver lethal payloads while the operator sits safely miles away absolved of being directly involved in the situation. This film focuses on the decision making process that comes before the trigger is pulled and people die.

Most of this film focuses on the debate over whether it’s legally and more importantly, ethically sound to take out a house where high value targets are meeting to gear up for a suicide bombing. The debate is on the subject of collateral damage and what is deemed acceptable. Each of the arguments are presented clearly with the script not favouring anything specific. Each character has their own opinion and level of responsibility that feels into the larger issue of what the “right” thing to do is in this situation. I like that the viewer is left to make up their own mind after considering all of the variables presented to them.

Eye in the SkyStructurally the film works perfectly with the presentation of the arguments moving the story forward. Just as the decision seems to have been made a little easier, more elements are thrown into the mix to further complicate the situation. This keeps things moving and ramps up the tension expertly through little more than basic imagery and sharply written dialogue. I found myself reminded of Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men in the way that the plot moves forward almost entirely because of what people say and the wider implications of the choice that has to be made.

The chief complication is a little girl (Aisha Takow) setting up shop in the blast zone making the whole thing an ethical nightmare. It’s fairly certain that she will be fatally injured with the best case scenario being seriously injured. It’s a little bit emotionally manipulative using a young girl as the focal point for this ethical debate and I couldn’t help but wonder if the same issue would be discussed if it was a grown man in that situation. I can see why it was done this way as the innocence of the little girl will help the audience create an emotional connection to the stakes and make their own thoughts on the matter unclear. There really is no right answer to this issue and the use of the girl clearly shows that. It all comes down to the potential loss of a large number of people being more or less significant than the definite loss of a single innocent girl. It’s a powerful choice that mathematically seems to have an easy answer but since the audience is right in the middle of the decision that is yet to be made it clearly isn’t as easy as that.

There was never a point where I didn’t find the debate compelling and the political bureaucracy of the situation was really well done. It’s played for laughs that the political figures seem incapable of making a decision and constantly want to pass the responsibility onto someone else. There’s an overall sense that these people only care about how they will be perceived if the information that the decision was made by them got out to the public plus the notion of absolving themselves of the guilt by making it someone else’s problem comes across strongly. All of the political maneuvering slows the process considerably and ramps up the tension by constantly cutting to the occupants of the house preparing for the bombing that will undoubtedly claim the lives of a lot of people.

Eye in the Sky boasts a magnificent cast with Helen Mirren’s Colonel Katherine Powell in the middle of it all. She is determined to take this opportunity to get rid of the people on the Kill List and make the world a slightly safer place. Mirren plays the character as being completely focused on the job with her opinion never wavering on what should be done. She considers the little girl but always has the bigger picture in mind. Much of her performance comes from her facial expressions and mannerisms with her frustration at the lack of a decision building as time appears to run out. It would have been easy for this character to come across as an unfeeling monster but Helen Mirren plays it with immense subtlety showing that she doesn’t take this lightly and she is shown to be unafraid of responsibility by assuring that those under her command won’t be blamed for their input to the process causing loss of life. It’s all on her and she’s willing to accept that.

Alan Rickman gives his final live action performance as Lieutenant General Frank Benson and definitely goes out on a high note. He delivers his usual unique brand of dry humour while also conveying the gravity of the situation and his part in it. In general his role is to relay the information between the politicians and Powell while occasionally presenting his own opinion on what should be done. His measured line delivery conveys the seriousness of the situation as well as his professionalism and shows that he doesn’t take any of this lightly. His final line “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war” is hauntingly delivered and reminds us just how talented an actor the man was. His contribution to the film industry will be missed.

Aaron Paul delivers a good performance as the drone pilot Steve Watts. Despite being miles away from the situation he feels like he is in the middle of it and the weight of responsibility he feels can clearly be seen in his performance. Despite being absolved of any apparent guilt due to the receiving the strike orders the enormity of what he is being asked to do still feels personal to him. He is ultimately the one who pulls the trigger so the deaths are by his hand whether they are the result of decisions made elsewhere or not. Paul does a great job juggling the emotional conflict combined with his professionalism. He does what he is told but is visibly uncomfortable with it and feels the weight of his actions. It’s a subtle performance from Aaron Paul that really creates empathy for the character. His partner Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox) also does a good job with her small role that mostly consists of bouncing off Paul’s Steve as they both consider the morality of the situation. There are no weak links in the acting department.


An excellent film that makes a complex debate constantly tense and compelling. Every actor brings their A-Game with notable performances from Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman who both convey the gravity of the situation. The debate is complex and left up to the viewer to form an opinion with the film not painting any answer as the “right” one. It’s superbly crafted and wonderfully tense throughout with sharply written dialogue moving the story forward.

  • 9/10
    Eye in the Sky - 9/10


Kneel Before…

  • sharply written dialogue
  • the constant build of tension throughout
  • incredible performances from the entire cast
  • a complex debate with no “right” answer and no sides taken by the script

Rise Against…

  • parts of the narrative being emotionally manipulative
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