If Bastille Day left me without any after taste of thought, you could not say the same with Eye in the Sky a film that was troubling in the issues it raised. In brief a combined US, British and Kenyan military operation has to evaluate whether a drone missile should destroy a house inNarobi containing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists preparing for a suicide attack when a young girl selling bread could be caught collaterally in the explosion. The action shifts from the cabinet room where General Benson (Alan Rickman) is advising the COBRA Committee and requires a decision for the minister to refer to Helen Mirren who is controlling the operation on the ground.
In films like Bastille Day you suspend believed in an incredible plot which carries you on and away with the action sequences. I experienced no such suspension here. All the facts could happen, I know the Israeli interior intelligence force Shin Bet have to make such decisions on almost a daily basis.
The political element and personalities were particularly well documented. The Minister tried to fudge the decision by moving it up the line thus necessitating delay in the firing of the missile which exasperated the General and Colonel Powell. The American team handling the drone clearly feel the same dilemma but have to subordinate their disquiet to the acceptance of orders and the execution of the missile.
Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell dressed in fatigues is a highly-talented actress but as with Bastille Day I felt her role was lip service to diversity criteria. The lady cynic on the Cobra Committee was a more credible personality than her (Colonel Powell) with her mix of decisive control and humanity . This was Alan Rickman’s final role. Often he out-acted the top stars and always he gave a captivating performance. Here he was more establishment but there were little nuances such as buying the wrong toy for a grandchild which fleshed out the character.
So many films nowadays have plot lines about terrorists, state of the art hardware and gizmos and successful woman executives but I wonder how these will last the course of time. As with war films set in World War Two or the Cold War whose more sexist male espionage roles now seem to be dated, so one might assume that if the Fundamentalist terrorist threat is passed, or the gizmos are no longer state of the art or society has many more women enjoying key roles in business, politics and the military, much of Eye in the Sky might seem dated. What will not date is the issue of collateral damage to civilians in a military operation and this is one brilliantly explored in this film.