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Review: Eye in the Sky

Ros Hull

Colonel Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare. IMDb

I usually like to leave the decision in our readers’ hands as to whether they ‘should’ see a movie or not. And I have a bone-deep dislike of labels such as ‘thought provoking’ or ‘required viewing’.

So I do not say this lightly: you should see Eye in the Sky.

You should go with an open mind and then discuss what you see, and even more importantly what you hear, with friends. However, may I suggest a glass of wine with the discussion?

This film gives what feels like a realistic insight into the sort of covert warfare that is being waged against extremist militia is several arenas around the world.

I went in expecting to be unnerved by what drones and spy gadgets can do – but I came out thinking (and perhaps worrying) about so much more.

The greatest strength of the film is that it gives no answers. It gives the audience strong (but elegantly spare) motivation for why and how each character acts in the way they do but it does not give glib solutions. Events take place that are not tied neatly together before the end credits. Which is so, so clever. Days later and I could write a paper depicting each character as an allegory of a sector of our society, or the moral dilemmas depicted, or the rights, the wrongs, the issues raised …

I am in awe of what scriptwriter Guy Hibbert has achieved. Helen Mirren’s role, as Colonel Powell, was originally written for a man (of course) but the depth, the dichotomy that has been created by giving the role to a woman is one of the most enriching aspects of the story.

There is no villain – with even the militia briefly showing human compassion towards the end; but there is no hero either. Each player in the multi-international pursuit and action is culpable and each is also without blame. The way that we glean their backstories is a workshop in what screenwriting should be – it is sparse, natural and says (or shows) no more than is necessary.

Gah, I want to dissect the story but I cannot give anything away before you see it!

So let me just say that director Gavin Hood, who also plays an American colonel, has directed some pretty awful movies before. I was not a fan of either Ender’s Game or Wolverine. He has tackled covert warfare in what some consider the most laborious, heavy-handed film on the subject – Rendition, which I have not seen. So it astonishing that he could work with such deft strokes and restrained simplicity on what could have so easily become overblown and turgid.

I am not saying it is a perfect movie but any quibbles are minor – it starts off like the set-up for a Tom Clancy multi-location story and plays a little flat in a few places. And I would not perhaps have chosen Alan Rickman to play a military general.

However, his last line in his last film is the best line of the movie and is delivered as only he could.

Vale Mr. Rickman, I will truly, madly, deeply love your work – always.

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Dendy Cinemas.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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