HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Eye in the Sky
HTS Overall Score:77
Warfare is no long longer as simple as it once was. Back in the day men would strap on flak jackets, rifles, handguns and trudge across trenches, dirt strips and whatever it took to fight their enemy. Now the battlefield has changed into that resembling a video game in part. Sure we have troops on the ground, but drones have become more and more prevalent, with the operators sitting back in their home countries behind a keyboard and monitor, able to sleep in their own beds and not have to worry about being caught behind enemy lines. “Eye in the Sky” is the latest in a list of movies that have been tackling the ethical and emotional implications of fighting a “war” in such a detached manner. Reminiscent of last year’s “Good Kill”, starring Ethan Hawke, “Eye in the Sky” focuses in on a single target area, in the span of an hour or so, as the top brass have to decide whether or not to terminate the target, and how much collateral damage is acceptable.
The Brits and the Americans have teamed up to fight against terrorist and civil unrest in the world, and right now they have a trio of top level terrorists in their drone’s sites in Africa. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) of the British military has identified the targets and she’s ready to launch hellfire missiles from an American run drone, but things are never as easy as it seems. Her authorization has to come from superior officer, General Frank Benson (The late Alan Rickman). As much as he is on board with executing the target, he has a cadre of Bureaucrats around him who are arguing about the political and legal ramifications of firing the missile into the house and causing collateral damage. What seems like an easy call turns out to be a nightmare as the two sides argue back and forth, passing the buck up to higher and higher state officials in an effort to not crack any eggs.
To make matters worse, just as they are about to fire, a young girl sets up a stand and starts selling bread RIGHT next to the structure. Now what was once a dicey situation becomes worse, as the moral debate moves from theoretical collateral damage to almost guaranteed death of a single girl. Basically the gist of the movie boils down to the age old question of “If you have the ability to save 100 people by killing one person, could you do it”? Arguments are tossed back and forth, and emotions run high as both sides rail against the other with time ticking down on the clock.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73785[/img]I was initially very leery of “Eye in the Sky”. I enjoyed “Good Kill” but the whole beating you over your head with the evils of the big bad military and one sided representation of drone warfare left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I was really just expecting more of the same here, with just a different scenario. Instead, I was happy to see that both sides got to express their point of view and that there seemed to be a very intentional “Laissez faire” tone to the movie when it came to assessing blame, and in fact almost seemed to side with the military decision of expediency and risk assessment at the end. Both sides definitely had their points, and while I have my biases, I really enjoyed the ability to stand back and say “hey, you BOTH have some excellent points here”.
While I enjoyed the film, there WAS some annoyances, mainly with the British Bureaucracy. So much time was wasted as each of the cabinet members sweated out their pores and just passed the buck on to someone else as they tried to assuage their consciences of what had to be done. Coming from a military family, the frustration of General Benson and Colonel Powell was palpable, as I completely agree with their assessment that there is just TOO MUCH politics in the handling of warfare. Instead of letting the military command run their military ops, public opinion and political careers are at stake, so the politicians just HAVE to stick their fingers in the pie and turn what would have been a simple command decision into a living nightmare for those who have to deal with the actual life and death decisions.
It’s a bit sad to see the late Alan Rickman in what may be his final film, but it was also highly enjoyable to see an old friend from beyond the grave one more time. His droll and semi emotionless delivery of his lines fits perfectly with the hardened military commander and Helen Mirren plays the frustrated and shackled Colonel Powell to a T. While the front cover gives top billing to Aaron Paul, he really only plays a minor (but important) roll. One which gives him little room to really shine, but that doesn’t mean he does a poor job, just that he’s not as prevalent as one would have expected.
Rated R for some violent images and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73793[/img]Shot using the Red Epic camera system, “Eye in the Sky” has a very pleasing 2.39:1 AVC encoded transfer, with natural looking color grading and eye popping detail. The Somali landscape looks appropriately dusty with lots of earth tones and a nice sunny exterior. The British and American military bases tend to be a bit more dimly lit, with men in bunkers and office buildings bathed in only the light from their lamps. Shadow detail is excellent, with strong amounts of detailing despite the dim lighting and I rarely noticed any artifacting at all, with only a flicker of banding coming through every once in a while. The overhead “eye from the sky” type shots look amazing, and even close ups show visible clarity that is startling. The image doesn’t have a wildly polished and shiny look, but technically it is sound with an amazing looking digital image.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73801[/img]Given the very constrained nature of the film, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track isn’t some wildly bombastic audio experience with explosions and car chases everywhere, but it does a very impressive job with the limited tools at its disposal. Dialog is crystal clear, whether that the African dialects, the English accents, or the good old American vocals. Each one is clear as a bell and balanced well amongst the limited effects. While the track isn’t wildly bombastic, the surrounds are used as well as they possibly can be, with strong support during the Somali incidences, such as the foot chase with the armed guards, or the hustle and bustle of a busy village street as people try and make their living. LFE is intermittent, mainly used to accent the tenseness of the film by adding in terse sounding score. However when called upon to make things go boom, it does so with great aplomb.
• Perspectives - Examining the Ethical Conflicts of Drone Warfare
• Morals - Exploring the Deeper Questions Raised in the Film
“Eye in the Sky” takes a rather balanced look at the complex world that has become modern warfare. I ended up liking it a lot more than “Good Kill” due to that balance approach (despite the fact that I have my own personal biases, as do many of you, on the subject going into the situation), and I the tense “will they or won’t they fire the missiles” kept me engaged from beginning to end. There was a few frustrating moments as the British bureaucracy littered the screen, but overall it was a highly entertaining low budget war/thriller that asks the hard question....if you had to hurt just one person to save dozens, would you do it? Audio and video were fantastic for the confined and low budget film, but there is DEFINITELY a lack of extras to enjoy (just barely over 3 minutes). Recommended for a watch
Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Written by: Guy Hibbert
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Buy Eye in the Sky On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Worth a Watch
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