Eye in the Sky is not my genre. It involves the military, which doesn’t interest me much. It’s not animated, the color saturation is low. But it was either this or some god movie so I decided to give Eye in the Sky a chance. Usually when I venture off-genre I learn something important – like how a film that doesn’t involve magic, aliens, talking animals or Mark Wahlberg can be any good. That’s just what happened here.
Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.
There was no hype for this film whatsoever, so my first indication of what it’s about is the audience and the trailers. This was mostly an older crowd and the trailers seemed all over the map, so I had no idea what to expect. This feeling didn’t go away very quickly – Eye in the Sky took its time getting established. We were shown scenes in the beginning that didn’t seem immediately relevant. I didn’t know what was going on, but I got the feeling that if I knew more about the military (or the military genre), I might have a better understanding of that they were showing me.
Once it got going, however, Eye in the Sky was incredible. It wound up slowly, carefully moving every plot element into position and then, slowly, started to wind up the tension. I went from boredom and incomprehension to white knuckled, had-to-remember-to-breathe suspense without noticing. And it didn’t let up. Once the the characters introduced, stakes were established and the central dilemma posed, Eye in the Sky wound tighter and tighter without relenting. The writing, even though it’s not my usual preference, was absolutely amazing.
Also amazing were the actors. I love Helen Mirren so much. I knew she’d be awesome and was not disappointed. Also Aaron Paul, who is a master of showing anguished indecision (as anyone who has seen Breaking Bad can attest). The late Alan Rickman, too, was a pleasure to watch and delivered the final message of the film with devastating finality. These are just the actors I can name off the top of my head – there wasn’t a bad performance in the bunch.
Eye in the Sky was not a very visual film. There’s no scenery porn here, no helicopter shots of Venice or fireworks displays. Most of the screen time is taken up by either characters arguing in dimly lit rooms or else the computer enhanced targeting system of the spy drone around which the show centers. There aren’t any fight scenes or car chases, almost all conflict is dialogue. I didn’t notice this until after the movie however, it seems perfect while you’re watching it. We understand what’s at stake, why a decision is not easily made and why one character might act one way or another, whether or not we agree with them.
So is this worth watching? Yes, definitely, if you’re into that sort of thing. No need to see it on the big screen, though, a rental will do just fine. The joy of this film is its believability (other than the battery life on some of those drones) and its ability to get you to empathize with characters in a difficult position being forced to make impossible decisions. If you do decide to give it a chance, you’re in for a treat, it was exquisitely well made and doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is.