Film Review: Eye In The Sky

By Dwight Brown
NNPA News Wire Film Critic

What is the tolerance level for collateral damage during drone strikes? It’s been a topical subject for years, as the U.S. and other countries fight the war on terrorism from the air and not so much the ground. British screenwriter Guy Hibbert (Prime Suspect) wrote the script for “Eye In The Sky” in 2008. Years later, after controversial U.S. drone strikes have killed scores of civilians, his fictional story is more relevant than ever.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has tracked a British radical (Lex King) for half a dozen years, finally cornering her in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya where she is setting up a suicide bombing with Al-Shabaab terrorists. Sophisticated American drone surveillance follows their every move. Powell and other officials monitor the action from a war room. Their local operative, Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi), spies on the ground.

All involved are pretty set on a targeted bombing, which will avoid mass destruction. An American drone pilot named Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is ready to pull the trigger. Then inexplicably, a nine year-old girl (Aisha Takow) sets up a bread stand right at the corner of the house that shields the terrorist.

The intelligence team wrestles with the choice of obliterating the house where bombers are plotting and risking the girl’s life, or letting the terrorists go and commit mayhem. Heated, desperate calls are made to the U.S. Secretary of State and British Foreign Secretary. None want to be caught dead killing a civilian. Powell and her boss Lieutenant General Frank Benson (the late Alan Rickman) are frustrated and bullish. Lower ranked personnel like Watts and a Sergeant Mushtaq Saddiq (Babou Ceesay, “Half of a Yellow Sun”) stymie their efforts, buying precious time.

It’s hard to watch the film and not vacillate between wanting them to act, and wanting them to stand down. Your emotions, opinions and speculation for the final outcome changes from scene to scene. That’s the mark of a well thought out script, a strong plot line, pivotal dialogue and engaging life-like characters. Add to that mix artful, skillful guidance from the brilliant director Gavin Hood, whose first entry into the international film market was the Oscar-winning, heart-wrenching South African film Tstosi.

Barkhad Abdi, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a Somali pirate in "Captain Phillips" co-stars in "Eye In The Sky." (Bleeker Street)
Barkhad Abdi, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a Somali pirate in “Captain Phillips” co-stars in “Eye In The Sky.” (Bleeker Street)

There isn’t a real weak link in this taut psychological thriller that is told in real time (102 minutes) and was shot in South Africa. The outside shots of the village are particularly believable (Haris Zambarloukos, “Thor”). The inside shots of the control rooms, not so much, they look like sets. The musical score, by Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian (Tsotsi), builds and ebbs at the right times. Megan Gill’s (Tstosi) editing barely leaves enough down time for a clock to tick.

Some might have thought that Minnesota mobile sales person turned actor Barkhad Abdi (Oscar-nominated for “Captain Phillips”) was a one-hit wonder. In fact he is so natural as the operative that you’d think he had a much longer resume than one film. Mirren has the right amount of bravura, outrage and diplomacy for her part, especially considering that she is stuck between four walls. Aaron Paul delivers an impressive low-key fortitude. Ditto Babou Ceesay. The supporting cast is strong throughout: Rickman, Phoebe Fox and Iain Glen.

To bomb or not to bomb? It’s a question that becomes a barometer for political viewpoints, military strategies, ethics and values. It’s a premise that carries this film through to the inevitable. That’s an ending that becomes the lesser of several evils.

Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.

Show More


Freddie Allen is the National News Editor for the NNPA News Wire and BlackPressUSA.com. 200-plus Black newspapers. 20 million readers. You should follow Freddie on Twitter and Instagram @freddieallenjr.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Washington Informer Newspaper, 3117 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, Washington, DC, 20032, http://www.washingtoninformer.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Back to top button

My News Matters to me - Washington Informer Donations

Be a Part of The Washington Informer Legacy

A donation of your choice empowers our journalists to continue the work to better inform, educate and empower you through technology and resources that you use.

Click Here Today to Support Black Press and be a part of the Legacy!

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker