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Eye in the Sky (4 stars)

Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman are at the fore of a gripping military thriller

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Eye in the Sky

A headline-grabbing issue, drone warfare has already made it to the big screen with 2014’s disappointing, Andrew Niccol-directed Good Kill. This latest effort, Eye in the Sky, helmed by South African Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Ender’s Game) and penned by Brit Guy Hibbert, is considerably more compelling. Set across four continents, it doesn’t so much deal with the pressures of flying the drones, as Niccol’s film did, but the political ping-pong that takes place before targets are eliminated.

In this instance, the crosshairs are lined up on Susan Danford (Lex King), a radicalised Englishwoman who has joined Al-Shabaab terrorists in Kenya. Overseeing the operation to bring her in is the uncompromising British military officer Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), but when Danford is moved to a not-so-safe-house in Nairobi, plans are readjusted when intel reveals that she and her cohorts are planning a devastating suicide-bomb attack in the city.

Suddenly, it becomes imperative that a drone strike is launched on Danford’s hideout – but that’s easier said than done in a joint op that involves getting the green light from American and British politicians, who repeatedly defer up the chain of command. Further complications arise when Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), the drone pilot hunkered down in a Las Vegas airbase, refuses to drop the missile as a young civilian girl strays into the projected blast zone.

What emerges is a film that works both as an against-the-clock thriller – as Powell and her London-based colleague Lt General Frank Benson (the late Alan Rickman, in his last on-screen appearance) try to prevent widespread havoc – and a study in the moral grey-area that military personnel are forced to operate in to save lives. Mirren and Rickman are outstanding, and Hood complements them by juggling theme and pace with aplomb. The result is as thought-provoking as it is nerve-shredding.

General release from Fri 15 Apr.

Eye in the Sky

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • UK
  • 102 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Gavin Hood
  • Written by: Guy Hibbert
  • Cast: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
  • UK release: 15 April 2016

When a military operation to bring in a radicalised Englishwoman turns into a planned drone strike, commanding officer Katherine Powell (Mirren) and her colleagues have to juggle military necessity with saving civilian lives. Nerve-shredding and thought-provoking against-the-clock thriller which probes the moral grey…

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