Eye in the Sky (Gavin Hood, 2016)

What's it about? A planned capture mission on a military target in Nairobi is complicated when a innocent young girl sets up her bread stall within the strike-zone. Her safety depends on the decision of many watchers, courtesy of high-tech surveillance footage. In London, a lieutenant general (Alan Rickman) urges action, but needs the approval of dithering politicians, who are concerned about the legal and political fallout. At command centre, the colonel in charge of the operation (Helen Mirren) is determined to get her target, but is all too acutely aware of the need to operate within the law and to the chain of command. In Nevada, a US drone pilot (Aaron Paul) is the man who must actually pull the trigger, which weighs heavily on his conscience. Finally, in Nairobi, an agent-in-the-field (Barkhad Abdi) may be in a position to persuade the girl to move to safety.

Is it any good? A solid thriller which generates and sustains tension to good effect, even though most of the action is simply people communicating between the different locations by phone, video and computer.  As it moves assuredly between the four main locations, the effect of the 'real-time' scenario and frequent use of the surveillance video-feed is that the viewer becomes rather complicit in the action, raising the inevitable question - what would you do? In truth, the characters are little more than mouthpieces for the various for-and-against arguments for the strike, but the moral and ethical issues raised by the differing viewpoints are thought-provoking enough in themselves to forgive the lack of character depth.  And in true Hitchcockian fashion, Hood knows that the threat of the strike is more suspenseful than the actual event - the number of loaves on the little girl's makeshift stall is a wonderfully visual countdown device as tension builds. It's not perfect - there are a few clumsily handled moments (the stuff with the doll and food poisoning) - but this is still a timely film about the nature of modern warfare and the grey areas in which those involved must operate.

Anything else I should know? Sadly, this was the last on-screen performance from Alan Rickman, who died just a few weeks after the film was released. Rather fitting that such a intelligent actor gets to sign off with a challenging film which affords him the chance to deliver a great last line.

What does the Fonz think? I spy with my little eye, something beginning with G.....
Good film.

Buy it on Amazon

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