Monday, 25 March 2019

Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?

AN edge-of-your-seat action thriller loaded with agonising moral dilemmas, Eye in the Sky could hardly be

AN edge-of-your-seat action thriller loaded with agonising moral dilemmas, Eye in the Sky could hardly be more topical, writes Anna Smith.

The nerve-shredding account of a top-secret operation to capture a group of terrorists from a safe house in Kenya, it stars Oscar winner Dame Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, a military intelligence officer making life-or-death decisions from a London base.

There’s a terrific ensemble cast, with Mirren injecting genuine urgency and authority into her performance as the increasingly exasperated officer, desperately trying to get approval for a drone strike she believes will save many lives.

A strong, empowered female character, she’s a woman to be reckoned with, whose anxiety to prevent a terrorist attack becomes infectious to all watching.

For the audience it’s easy to understand her cries for action, while being acutely aware of the potential loss of civilian life on the ground — key scenes with Kenyan locals are heart-wrenching.

As plans for an imminent terrorist attack emerge, Powell feels a strike may be the only option. But when a little girl is shown on camera wandering into the kill zone, the US-based drone pilot (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) is loath to pull the trigger. Collateral damage is a distinct possibility.

While orders are being barked at both characters, the undercover man on the ground (Captain Phillips’s Barkhad Abdi) has his own choices to make.

Should he risk his life and try to get the girl out? It could jeopardise the mission, but it could also be her best chance of survival.

Gavin Hood’s film is a tense, explosive clock-ticker that combines action with character development and up-to-the-minute themes.

It’s fascinating to see the complex chain of command as the British Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman in his last screen role) confers with boardroom colleagues (Jeremy Northam and Monica Dolan) and seeks advice from travelling British foreign secretary James Willett (Iain Glen).

Shades of dark humour creep into these scenes as the decision-makers debate the best course of action, many trying to avoid culpability by “referring it up”. But each referral costs time and — potentially — lives.

Eye in the Sky doesn’t offer simple answers, exploring the morality and the fallibility of modern warfare with a European sensibility.

It puts you in the front seat, with all the pressures, challenges and shifting demands that both drive and haunt the characters.

It’s a film that will get you thinking, and it will get you talking — much as 2008’s The Hurt Locker and 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty did.

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