Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

(M) Starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is having a difficult time sleeping and it has more to do with her job than with her husband’s snoring issues. She oversees the UK-based military drone operation that targets international terrorists cells. On this particular day, six years of work are being brought together. In one operation, she has the opportunity to apprehend some of the most wanted international terrorists. Through the coordinated efforts of politicians, military leaders, lawyers and drone pilots in the UK, US and Kenya, the team targets these terrorists in a “safe house” in Nairobi.

Utilising state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and on-the-ground intelligence officers, the terrorist cell is in Powell’s sights. What also swiftly comes to light is this group is planning a much more sinister action than initially believed. Powell makes the judgement to turn her mission from a “capture” to “kill” operation. While the politicians and lawyers confer to consider the collateral damage and cost/benefit analysis, the military matriarch must convince her team to go ahead with the new orders. After a multitude of deliberation, actions get into motion but realities of humanity keep getting in the way — thanks to a little girl selling bread. This one innocent activity brings to head the moral, political, and human tension of modern warfare.

With the advancement of technologies and weapons, warfare in this era offers amazing considerations for high drama on-screen. The challenge for film-makers trying to tackle drone warfare and the online political management of war zones, is to make these battles as compelling as war films of the past. Director Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game) shows that war is never victim-less and that even with the distant manner in which these wars are fought, it is impossible to eliminate the human component of these strategic campaigns.

In his last on-screen performance, Alan Rickman (Harry Potter series) is excellent among the supporting cast members, but the strength of the story is found in the on-the-ground experience in Kenya. Believing the capabilities of the armed forces to be able to manage the world’s problems from afar is not a surprise, but seeing how it can effect the everyday lives of people is what will draw audiences into the drama.

The heart of Eye in the Sky can be found in the innocent eyes of the young Kenyan girl. Without her knowledge, she becomes the catalyst for an international incident of enormous significance. The ethical and moral decisions which must be made, stress each human thread of those involved. The critical “role” played by the Kenyan girl gives a valuable face to people around the world who do not choose the life they have been given and are merely trying to get by — despite the destructive situations occurring near their homes.

The message of this cinematic military experience becomes a reality check on the human values and moral implications of our movements and their decisions. The drama is well managed, but may seem a bit underwhelming in comparison with other battlefield dramas. But it is a thought-provoking experience that will leave many feeling conflicted about the topics of international safety and the war on terror.


What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

Colonel Katherine Powell is put into incredibly difficult situations and has to make decisions that will effect the lives of people around her, as well as half-way around the world. What all of this shows is that most decisions in life cannot be categorised into one area. They usually contain moral, human, ethical and philosophical aspects that have to be weighed out internal and collectively. So, where can people find the core to many of life’s bigger challenges? Interestingly, the Bible gives answers to most of the human decisions in Eye in the Sky. When it comes to this area of how to live life, God’s Word might be worth a look.

  1. Can we find truth in this world? (John 14:6, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
  2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
  3. Is revenge ever justified? (Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 3:9)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger


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