The war film has evolved so much during the course of cinema, and has existed right from the beginning of cinema’s inception. The cost of war has been explored almost much as the amount of wars fought – ancient wars, The War of the Roses, the War of Independence, The Civil War, World War I, World War II, The Cold War, Vietnam and the War in the Middle East, war is not a subject cinema is a stranger to. War obviously still exists to this day, but it has also evolved into something very different to every other war, and the only part that remains constant throughout all is the incredible loss of life and horrendous effects war has on society. One of the more recent films about warfare, Eye in the Sky, explores this topic beautifully, and utilizes a very unique approach to exploring modern warfare, and is one of the more cerebral and interesting war films of recent years.
The film is set in three different countries – the United Kingdom, the United States and Kenya. It concerns a multinational attempt to bring down some operatives of an Islamist terrorist group, Al-Shabab. In order to do this, the three nations have to work together, and while initially planning to capture and prosecute the wanted criminals, it is discovered that they are planning a suicide bombing mission, and the capture mission is changed to a kill mission, and over the course of the film, the risks and potential problems that come from killing the terrorists are weighed out, especially when the presence of a young girl selling bread nearby triggers many more problems – do they potentially kill one innocent girl and save the lives of many others by preventing the suicide mission to go on, or do they save the little girl and allow the terrorist group to continue their path of violent destruction? It plays out like a very intelligent and tense thriller, and many questions of war and humanitarianism are explored.
Eye in the Sky boasts a tremendous cast. Dame Helen Mirren takes on the major role of Colonel Katherine Powell, a British military official in charge of executing the plan and accomplishing the mission. Vicious and brutal, she is shown to be a ruthless soldier, willing to do anything to prevent the spread of even more violence. It is clear that Colonel Powell is a complex character, being neither a hero nor a villain – rather, she is a soldier doing what needs to be done to save innocent lives, even if it means potentially fatally injuring one innocent person to save others. Mirren is such a brilliant actress, and she chooses fascinating roles. Her role as Powell was one that was originally written for a man, yet the role was equally as effective as played by Mirren. It brings up the fact that so many roles are written for men, when there are certainly women capable enough of playing the role. Mirren is wonderful, and continues to be one of the most versatile and interesting performers working today.
Barkhad Abdi finally returns for another great role after his breakout performance in Captain Phillips three years ago. Here he plays a Kenyan operative charged with being the ground operative. He is as interesting and complex as his Captain Phillips character – I just hope Abdi continues to get good work, because he’s a fascinating talent, and he certainly deserves a Hollywood career that can show off his talents. Aaron Paul has tried for some film roles since his star-making turn in Breaking Bad, but its just not working out very well. He is certainly trying, and his breakout could be around the corner. He is the complete opposite of Jesse Pinkman here, playing a dignified and clean-cut army lieutenant in charged with literally pulling the trigger on the drone that kills the terrorists, and he himself has to face the fact that he is the final frontier of this mission. I just want to note that this was the final live-action role of the great Alan Rickman, one of the most interesting and dedicated actors in film history. He was iconic as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, yet it feels like he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Rickman has since departed this mortal coil (a great loss for cinema), but his role in Eye in the Sky proves his talent and brilliant versatility.
Eye in the Sky is the ultimate representation of modern warfare – it is a war film like any other, but it doesn’t feature countless battle scenes or soldiers crawling through the mud – rather, it shows drone warfare, where three nations can cooperate in executing a mission without any of them getting too close to the battlefield (and most of them sitting in their chairs on a completely different continent) – it is a brilliantly modern and endlessly fascinating look at modern military strategies, and one that displays the way warfare has evolved. It is as thrilling and tense as any other war film, and I thought it was remarkable how a film that takes place mostly in some isolated rooms could be one of the most thrilling films of the year.
Eye in the Sky is a wonderful film. Tense and really fascinating, it features great performances in a beautifully cerebral and thrilling film. It shows modern warfare in a very interesting light, and is much better than it should be. It is a war film that pays attention to the more complex sides of warfare, and is quite simply one of the best films of the year. Beautifully made, captivating and brilliant, it is a great film and extraordinarily entertaining. It will keep you at the edge of your seat for the entire time.