The Sloth loves Helen Mirren. Partly because at 60+ she can randomly dye her hair pink and look good, not mad. Partly because she’s never had ‘work done’. But mostly because there are few other actors who can play ‘ballsy’ with anywhere near as much panache, exemplified by her career defining role as Prime Suspect’s D.S. Jane Tennison. So the prospect of Helen as high ranking British Army Colonel Katherine Powell in Eye In The Sky boded extremely well.
Colonel Powell is in pursuit of a suspected terrorist cell in a Kenyan village. Having monitored and tracked her suspects for some time, she is desperate to eliminate them before they can carry out an imminent suicide bombing. But despite wearing full combat fatigues, hers is no old-skool, guns ‘n’ ammo military operation, rather it is a war of stealth and technology, waged from thousands of miles away.
Having enlisted the help of a high ranking pal in the US Army, Colonel Powell has a US drone, piloted by Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), hovering over her suspects, missiles primed for launch. On the ground she has local intelligence agent Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) stationed nearby. Having obtained clearance from the British Government, she has the go ahead. But just as Steve is about to push the button, a young local girl appears on the street outside the cell and sets up a bread stall, which puts an enormous spanner in the works. Do they now knowingly kill one child to prevent the terrorists potentially killing multiple children?
Eye In The Sky is that simple. One pertinent moral question that asks ‘what would you do?’. Set in real time, it shows the weakness of government ministers who dither and refer upwards to their superiors, the sobering reality of taking a life hitting home to the drone pilot, who till now has been cocooned in a pod. It’s also a frankly disturbing insight into how sophisticated military technology has got (word of warning – that annoying buzzing bluebottle in the corner might not be what is seems…). With excellent performances throughout, including Alan Rickman’s last role before his untimely death, it’s that a rare cinematic beast – one that asks us to engage our intelligence. How refreshing.