‘Eye in the Sky’ Nearly Succeeds, Ultimately Misses The Mark (FILM REVIEW)


The unfortunate disappointment of a star-studded film being released during “dump season” is as inevitable as the earth turning. Add to the fact that a vaguely anti-war film, with a vaguely star studded cast, was released during dump season and the disappointment mounts. It’s unfair to call Eye in the Sky bad, though it would have been more palatable than the nothing that ensued instead.

The story is fairly straight forward. Colonel Powell (Helen Mirren) is awoken to news that two enemies of the state (and world it later turns out) have been spotted. There’s a small window of opportunity to catch them, a window the British military was banking on for days if not months ahead of time. It’s a routine capture plan; go in, acquire the bad guy, try not to kill anyone or let anyone die. Things go south as the window closes. There’s lots of waiting, yelling, and Aaron Paul looking somber. Just as they’ve established a new plan to eliminate instead of capture, a little girl innocently wanders into the picture. Oh no! What to do? Evidently make a lot of phone calls. And wait. And wait some more until the weight of the picture is destroyed by the wait time of the characters.

Now, it’s an intriguing story, which is why it’s completely understandable that so many actors were interested in the roles. It turns out this was Alan Rickman’s last role (save for a voice role in the new Alice in Wonderland movie that no one is going to watch) and he’s simply a bit player in the whole deal. The previously mentioned Paul joins the cast as an American Airforce pilot who is in charge of the titular “eye in the sky” as they survey the scene for the British operations team. Barkhad Abdi makes his triumphant return to the big screen, acting against insurgents this time around, and Iain Glen managed to pull himself away from Khaleesi long enough to pop up a few times and add to the madness that is bureaucracy.

This is likely what war is really like. Paul and his co-pilot and waver at the idea of injuring this little girl. One of the main problems they face is bad intel leading to this being an issue at all. Mirren’s character is an unabashed badass, though her technique comes into question when she begins asking her inferiors to lie in order to get what she wants. While Paul worries about the life and safety of the little girl, Rickman and other grumpy British politicians worry about the backlash from the world once they find out there were other options in this scenario. Of course, there’s problems with suicide bombers and US deserters who became radicalized that lead to their decision in the long run, but again it’s hard to care when we’re solely stuck with the paperwork side of things.

The irony of the film is constantly thrown in your face. As the argument boils over, it’s pointed out more than once that there’s no real danger for anyone involved; they’re all sitting comfortably in cushy chairs a world away from the action. Who are they to disrupt that world? The only one that gets caught in the cross fire is Abdi’s character, a moment that disrupts the monotony for a whole five minutes. Spoiler, he’s fine. He’s working for the states after-all. In the end, they choose to pull the trigger. The casualties (and even lack thereof) barely bother them, begging the question of what is right, and what is wrong? Where is the line drawn when it comes to war? Whose life matters? Obviously we need to get the bad guy, that’s the point, but at what cost?

Again, this think process is part of what should make this film work. There’s a lot that should, including Paul who gives a wonderful performance but keeps choosing movies that squarely put him away from the audience he deserves. The execution of the whole thing is lacking, and though it leaves the viewer with somewhat of an anti-war stance, it only does so on the condition that that’s what you want. Taking into consideration the audience this will actually acquire, the message will not resonate, putting the film right back into the war drama category that Hollywood keeps beating to death.

Eye in the Sky is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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