The other night my wife and I watched “Eye In The Sky”, a drama thriller directed by Gavin Hood (“Enders Game”, “Rendition”) that hit UK cinemas earlier this year.
The film opens with Alia Mo’Allim (Aisha Takow), a young girl playing in the dusty back yard of her family home in Nairobi, Kenya. As the camera pulls away further we see more of her surroundings from above through the crosshairs of a drone camera, before the scene switches to very early morning in the UK. Here we meet Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren – “The Debt”, “Excalibur”) waking to news that an undercover British / Kenyan agent has been murdered by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group.
Powell is commanding a mission to capture some important Al-Shabaab members in Nairobi, including British and US nationals. This is a mission that involves Powell’s own unit at Northwood, US personnel in Nevada and Hawaii and Kenyan troops and agents on the ground in Nairobi.
The operation is overseen by a COBRA meeting where Powell’s boss Lieutenant General Frank Benson (the late Alan Rickman – “Die Hard”, “Robin Hood – Prince Of Thieves”) has to try to obtain clearance from the various politicians in attendance.
What begins as a fairly routine watch and extract-when-possible mission becomes problematic when one of the agents on the ground, Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi – “Grimsby”, “Captain Phillips”) identifies that the suspects are arming themselves with suicide vests. Powell is determined that they should not be allowed to leave the house and decides that the mission objective must change from “capture” to “kill” and orders a Hellfire mission strike from the drone.
However, the Nevada-based Reaper drone operators Steve Watts (Aaron Paul – “Retribution”, “The Last House On The Left”) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox – “The Woman In Black 2 – Angel Of Death”, “War Book”) see that the little girl, Alia, is selling bread right outside the targeted property and request that the strike be delayed until she moves away.
Throughout there are assessments and decisions that must be made, from the various military and political characters and even though there is very little in the way of actual action the tension is certainly kept up as we witness that back-and-fro that takes place before a final decision can be reached. All of the main players give very convincing performances.
This is a very current and topical film and gives a really interesting insight into just how complicated even a single mission can become when political and PR concerns, not to mention emotional and moral responses, are added to the already difficult mix of military aims and the legality of them. Thought-provoking stuff. Definitely recommended viewing…