Written by Guy Hibbery / Directed by Gavin Hood / Starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman and Barkhad Abdi
On paper, EYE IN THE SKY really should not work. It sounds like the type of war film that comes along every year, and even Helen Mirren’s name could not make it a hard sell. In watching the film, this appears to be true at first, yet the film takes a very interesting turn and quickly becomes one of the most thrilling films of the year.
Mirren stars as Colonel Katherine Powell. Along with her team, Powell has been hunting British citizen turned Somali terrorist Aisha Al Hady for years. Finally, Powell has located Al Hady inside a residential home, and immediately brings on a drone strike team to assist in destroying her target. Drone operator Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is ready to launch the missiles, when he realizes that a young girl is selling bread in the “kill zone”. A debate quickly begins between Powell, Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), Foreign Secretary James Willett (Iain Glen), and more as to whether or not to fire the missiles. Meanwhile, Powell employs ground agent Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) to deter the girl.
EYE IN THE SKY gets interesting when it moves past the drone strike strategizing and into the debate of whether or not to kill the young girl. There is an argument presented in which they can fire the missiles, likely killing the young girl but also preventing countless deaths from Al Hady’s suicide attacks, or they can save the girl, likely allowing Al Hady to continue killing. As the debate comes to a close, audiences will be swept into the film, and surely split between the two camps.
The ensemble is strong, but one gets the sense that most of these characters could have been played by anyone. Mirren is not really given too much to do, character wise, which kind of makes her performance feel like a waste of talent. It is nice to see CAPTAIN PHILLIPS star Abdi again, as he provides the most charismatic performance in the film. While at times it may feel a bit familiar, EYE IN THE SKY is a strong edge-of-your-seat thriller that is sure to divide its audience.
EYE IN THE SKY screens at TIFF15 as part of the Gala Presentations program. This is the screening information:
Friday, September 11, 6:30 PM, Roy Thompson Hall
Saturday, September 12, 11:15 AM, Isabel Bader Theatre
For more information and for tickets, please visit tiff.net.