Bombay Showcase

Eye in the Sky: Causalities of war

A small, non-descript bird flutters around a house in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, where several men and one woman have conspicuously gathered. A beetle slips past the door into the house. After a rather dull first 30 minutes, Eye in the Sky comes alive as these two creatures take flight. These are drones, you see, remote controlled for a top-secret operation by the UK military with support from its US counterpart: both sitting thousands of miles away in their respective bases.

The beetles and the bird drones — symbolic of the United Kingdom (The Beatles) and the USA (eagle) — in a way, become the eyes of the Western superpowers. They are looking to capture terrorists, who also include a British lady and two US citizens. The plan soon changes to launching an attack and killing them — after they discover that the terror group is gearing up for a suicide bombing mission in the city in the next few hours. But here’s the conflict: like any other day — camped dangerously close to the house, a little local girl has opened shop to sell bread. A bombing would probably prove to be fatal for the innocent child, who will be the mission’s only collateral damage.

Eye in the Sky builds a human drama around this one event. Suddenly, the focus, from the high-profile terrorists and its geo-political connotations, shifts to something as basic as a girl trying to make her living. As all kinds of efforts are made to get her away from the site, the last hour plays out like a thriller. It’s this shuttling between the macro and the micro that forms the heart of the film. Early on, the US air force pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul tapping once again into his young, soft-hearted vulnerability of his Breaking Bad role) spots a beautiful moment: the girl playing all by herself. Moments later, when he is asked to press the button, he refuses to.

The house is divided. One half wants to save the girl and the other is ready for the sacrifice for the sake of the lives of 80 more innocent people. The film even goes into the nitty-gritty of high-tech scientific analysis to present us with figures. For example, if the bomb is launched in a slightly lesser angle, will it minimise the chances of the girl getting hurt? Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), controlling the mission from Kenya, and Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) located in London, are the more hardened heads of mission who want a sacrifice for the larger good.

Mirren is effective as a stern military boss, whose hands are tied by bureaucracy. South African actor Armaan Haagio brings reckless energy to his role of the local who remote controls the drones just outside the house while pretending to be playing games on his phone. Rickman has a quiet, powerful presence, and in what is his second last feature film performance, delivers a knockout closure to the film when he tells his colleague: “Never tell a soldier that he doesn’t know the cost of war.”

Where this taut film suffers is the lack of an exciting visual language. Although half of the film’s look comes from the detached bird’s eye view from various distances, the rest of it is a little flat. As a result, Eye in the Sky gets tiring time to time, but its solid plot is good enough to keep it going.

Eye in the Sky

Director: Gavin Hood

Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Armaan Haagio

Duration: 102 mins

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 3:25:31 AM |

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