Eye in the Sky is one Alan Rickman’s last films to be released. The story follows various stakeholders involved in a drone operation with Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), a military officer in command of the operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, which sees her mission escalate when a moral issue erupts, triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare whilst liaising with Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) to get the mission complete.
The film shows the process of a mission involving a drone from various aspects. For instance you see the people captaining the drone in the form of the character Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox) liaising with Colonel Katherine Powell at the base of operations; Powell, in turn, is trying to approve actions from her Lieutenant who is liaising with various people within government who hold the power to approve military orders.
The film has many characters with a part to play but what director Gavin Hood (who also stars in this film as Lt. Colonel Ed Walsh) does is ensure that the narrative goes at a slow pace to ensure that the audience remains in touch with what is going on with the mission. At the start, you could argue that the film goes a little too slow, as I questioned in the first act whether or not this film was finally going to get going, but once it does you are pretty much on a roller coaster ride to the end. The director could have easily started the film at a fast pace but that would have made it difficult to follow. Eye in the Sky controls the pace and aligns it perfectly with the low or high urgency of the characters.
The film tackles the difficult subject of the decisions that the military and government officials have to make with drone missions on a day-to-day basis. The film shows what you do not see on the news, with the hard decisions and the constant choices military and political figures have to make when conducting a mission through the eyes of a drone.
You find yourself as an audience member almost shaking your head at the lack of decision-making the characters exhibit in deciding something with such moral complications. You find yourself stuck in the middle of a debate between political and military motives. There are some moments in the film where you feel shocked, where you feel angry or where you feel disappointed in certain characters. You could almost feel the tension in the cinema room at certain points and if I am honest with you, although I enjoyed the story, I could feel myself at times getting stressed with its subject matter. This is no simple pulse racing thriller – Eye in the Sky captures your imagination and makes you feel nervous.
It is clear that the director of this film has clear intentions and an opinion of the world today. He evidently highlights how Western society makes its decisions. How with all the infrastructure, technology, and power the leaders of our governments and military still find it hard to make a conscious decision. The film plainly shows leaders of power passing the buck on decisions that concern moral implication. From a personal standpoint if I had to sum up this film I would say that it matches my opinion of this world entirely, and that is why I think that when the film ends you could almost feel a strain in the room, because the truth of the matter is we do not like the truth of what is really happening in certain parts of the world and when we see it displayed in all its glory on the big screen it makes us feel uncomfortable. As soon as the film ended I just wanted to leave. If that was the director’s intention then he pulled it off brilliantly, because in the decisive act I could hear a few people gasp. I felt taken back with the whole ordeal which tells me the film did its job. Gavin Hood tackled the subject regarding drone missions in an honest and engaging way.
The film makes you question government and military authorities who make decisions from a safe distance and then go home back to their families after a day’s work. You have to question is it easy to sit down in your armchair making military decisions that could impact others? And with this, you are left wondering which characters care. Ultimately the film manages to bring you to question the character’s morals and principles, and if you are morally inclined then you feel like you are scrutinising them.
The film does have its flaws. It does feel slow at the start and I did wonder if I had watched it at home would I have carried on. But once you get past the 20-minute mark you are glad you stayed until the end. It also takes awhile for each actor/actress to start getting into their roles at the beginning, but you could argue with the intentionally slow pace that this was what the director intended. I have to say though that the film length was absolutely spot-on, which I do not manage to say for a lot of films that are released at present.
To end on a positive note, one of Alan Rickman’s last acting performances ends on a high. His timing as ever with some of his lines is perfect. Although his character in the story is not necessarily likeable you find yourself smiling at his lines at some points because it is Alan Rickman – and he will be sorely missed in the film industry.
It’s far from perfect but it is a must-see. Before you watch the film, be prepared to take on a difficult subject matter. The film starts off slowly but surely builds up to a tense finish.
Enjoyed reading this review? Then you will probably like listening to us too so check out our podcast
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.