Friday, April 8, 2016

Movie Review: EYE IN THE SKY

My name is Jacob, and I'm the new writer at Merc With a Movie Blog. I hope you guys enjoy what I have to say!

We all love war films, and Eye In The Sky is a morally complex look at the other side of modern warfare, and all of the political, legal and emotional conundrums that go with it. Through riveting dialogue and a refreshing lack of emotional manipulation, director Gavin Hood naturally draws you into the events of the story, and connects you to the characters in spite of minimal exposition and character setup.

Helen Mirren plays the steely-eyed Colonel Katherine Powell, a weary UK based military officer in charge of a top-secret operation of capturing terrorists in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and a spy on the ground, she discovers that the targets are in the midst of planning a suicide bombing, and the directive is changed from capture, to kill. Though as the film painstakingly lays out for us , it's not as simple as whacking a button and letting a drone strike fly.

While many war films will focus on the explosion, this movie looks at the implications of the explosion, and that phrase made all-too familiar as of late thanks to Batman V Superman, 'collateral damage'. The mission is compromised when a nine year old girl enters the kill zone, sparking a moral and legal debate that rattles through to the top levels of the British government, down to the man who has to pull the trigger, a pilot named Steve Watts played emotionally by Aaron Paul.

Hood, who started his career with the Oscar winning film Tsotsi, has more recently been known for the colossal misfire X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Enders Game. Thankfully this movie is completely different, and Hood has finally shown what he really is capable of when given the right project. The film is handled very well, taking place in multiple locations with all the characters spread evenly. The film starts lethargically as it strives to explain the plot, jumping from location to location, but once the mission is set up, the film locks you in and doesn't let you go until the end credits roll.

All of the actors involved gave great performances, Helen Mirren commands the film with a great screen presence, and is the through-line for all of the other characters. The late Alan Rickman bows out with one hell of a performance in his final live-action role as Lt. General Frank Benson. He is responsible for most of the films' laughs, however dark they may be, while corresponding with the attorney-general and other government officials. The film has an almost farcical quality to it, and in the hands of a different director, could've been made as a dark satire. When faced with tough decisions in the film, many authority figures in the government don't want to be the ones to make the decision, so they keep “referring up” higher and higher, all the more frustrating Powers as the clock is ticking. Barkhad Abdi was also very impressive in his first film role since being Oscar nominated for Captain Phillips, proving that he is in fact the real deal and his nomination was no fluke. Here he plays Jama, a military spy on the ground in Kenya, one of the more engaging characters despite his minimal screen time, and it's great to see that he's not getting type-cast as a terrorist.

The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukis is sharp, smooth and beautiful to look at, taking shots from spy cameras (of which there are many) throughout the film and making them look continually interesting. The look of this film in many scenes reminded me of Roger Deakins' work in Sicario (2015). The real reason the film works though is the sizzling screenplay by Guy Hibbert in his sophomore film effort. Tension is created by dialogue and the film really puts you in the position of the characters, and asks what you would do in their situation, and as the film draws to a climax and stakes rise, the movie gets under the skin and creates a feeling of nausea in the best way possible. Would you kill one person to save 50? The film doesn't lead or manipulate the audience in any direction and characters present valid arguments for both sides of the coin.

Eye In The Sky is a top notch political thriller and I can't recommend it enough. It shows us that war is hell in more ways than one, and sometimes it's sadly necessary.

Jacob's Score: 9/10

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1 comment:

  1. Man, Ive been keeping an eye on this but you just sealed the deal for me. Thank you! Solid review.