The Cost of War: A Review of Eye in the Sky

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Lean, harsh and edge of your seat tense, Eye in the Sky captures your attention from the get-go and holds you tight, captivating with restrained but electric performances that make for one of the years most accomplished dramas.

It’s the story of different individuals, all gathered around monitors, making decisions and arguing ethically complex matters. As a drone hovers above a group of soon to be suicide bombers in Nairobi, a complication arises, turning a simple operation into a matter of morality.

The background bickering of a drone strike may sound like a potentially delicate matter but it’s because of the phenomenal cast and the careful handling of the material that elevates this Film to higher levels.

The complication, a young girl selling bread in harms way, makes for the most thought-provoking theme of any recent Film. Do you strike, killing a young innocent girl, or do you let her live and possibly kill over 80 people in a later terror attack? This makes every single decision in the Film a gut wrenching and difficult one. There’s nothing easy about it.

As we cut from room to room, Helen Mirren’s Colonel to Aaron Paul’s drone pilot, Alan Rickman’s Lieutenant General in London to Barkhad Abdi’s in the fray Farah, we get to understand how complicated a decision like this is.

Helen Mirren as the Colonel in the big office in the UK is desperate that the terrorists don’t escape the house they’re watching, having searched for one of the members for the past 6 years.

She’s a strong and determined character, grizzled by her job but still intent on doing the right thing. It’s refreshing to see a Film as important as this be surprisingly feminist with an older leading lady and a whole host of women in various roles.

Aaron Paul also does excellent work as the man who spots the girl and refuses to fire, his emotions come out of the screen as the man with his finger on the trigger and his drone partner Carrie is in the same emotional hell.

The true standouts though go to Abdi and Rickman, more on him later, Barkhad in particular absolutely shines as the man right in the thick of it, just feet from the armed insurgents and the targetted house. As in Captain Phillips, he effortlessly manages to captivate and a lot of the Films tension comes from fearing for his life as he stands in the firing line.

All things considered, though, the real stand-out here is Alan Rickman in his last on-screen role, which is thankfully fantastic. The character he plays is back in London, conversing with Mirren in Surrey and getting the other officials around him to get the necessary permissions as things begin to go downwards.

He IS Alan Rickman, perfectly commanding as a Military Lieutenant General delivering a tough but also humorous performance, also happening to have the most poignant and excellent final line. Through all of the Films key players, more and more people on the end of phones popping up to give their view on the trouble, it’s Rickman who’s performance absolutely dazzles.

This is simply a terrific Film, from the non-flashy cinematography to the tense music, rigorous editing to the writing, what makes it work is the respect Director Gavin Hood has for the writing, carefully showing the pain of the families who live in this area and not just the fragile minds of the people sitting in their chairs.

The Film makes a point of this, it doesn’t solely focus on the dilemma every member of the Military and Government go through but takes a tender view of the girl and her family, respectfully giving them a voice.

Everything falls into place once you know the angle you’re approaching from. Despite being the ones with their fingers on the trigger, we understand the horrible position every person finds themselves and with a tender grasp of the subject matter, we struggle ourselves to untangle the moral complexity.

This is a real gut punch of Film, as relevant as it’ll ever be, with a finger on the pulse and an eye in the sky. That final line from Rickman “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war” may be the finest delivered moment in any Film this year.

It is, however, a tricky Film to get right, what do people think?

Rating: B+

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