Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul
Running Time: 102mins
In Eye in the Sky director Gavin Hood has managed to bring a huge amount of tension to what in fairness is a pretty basic premise and a routine military operation.
Helen Mirren plays Colonel Powell, a senior army officer responsible for the operation in Nairobi around which this film is set. The objective of this mission is to gather evidence and intelligence about an ex-British woman who has ties to the Al-Shabaab terrorist network. Utilising US Military drones and technology alongside people on the ground the mission has all the pieces in place to be successful.
The scope of the film visually is very constrained, using just a couple of static locations; The Operation Centre in the UK, the council room full of politicians, lawyers and decision makers, the drone control hut in the US, and the actual target house in Nairobi. Even though the camera regularly returns to the same shots and angles it is intense in its gaze and inspection of even the smallest movement or change and in this way it keeps you interested, holds your attention. Couple this with a real military/political dilemma and you have all the ingredients needed to keep you on tenterhooks for almost the entire runtime.
The late, great Alan Rickman plays the General responsible for liaising with the politicians and legal teams to ensure that the mission is all above board and, if the parameters change whether it can still be green-lit. He does a great job throughout but it is his counterpart Helen Mirren who is the driving force behind this, providing impetus and raising the stakes and asking the hard questions. Aaron Paul plays the drone pilot who, despite being so far removed from the situation (he is literally in a little hut in the middle of nowhere) is deeply involved in the mission and also plays his part to raise the stakes and the tension.
There is some heavy handed imagery on character placement that could have been a little bit more subtle but it all helps to get the films main messages across and helps to define where the lines and responsibilities lay. But apart from this I couldn’t fault the work in setting the scene and letting it play out. In terms of tension building and maintaining it, I have not watched another film in recent memory that has managed to keep me at that level for so long.
I highly recommend Eye in the Sky, it is an intense, narrowly focused dissection of one mission amongst many others but the work put in to bring that intensity across is superbly done.