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Drone Warfare Sets Stage for Magnificent Morality Tale

"Eye in the Sky" is an intense thriller for adults



"Eye in the Sky" is a film of ideas. Big ones that will create magnificent discussions and possible arguments with friends and lovers. This time of the year is sometimes seen as the dumping ground for movies that studios don't think will generate much of a profit, but it's almost certain that if this was released around November/December, there would be some serious awards talk.

One thing that will definitely be notable is that, according to IMDB, this will be the last film role for the absolutely unforgettable Alan Rickman, of "Die Hard" and "Harry Potter" fame, after his awfully depressing death in January. He finished recording his vocal performance as The Blue Caterpillar in "Alice Through the Looking Glass," so at least we will have his delightfully droll voice in our lives one more time.

Rickman is just one small part of this ensemble piece which tells the story of a possible drone strike and all the things that might come together to make it happen. The always excellent Helen Mirren plays Colonel Katherine Powell, a part of the British military forces searching for certain high-level terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nevada, U.S. Air Force pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is controlling the drone giving Britain its aerial surveillance of the terrorist safe house. Meanwhile, the African government has spies around the terrorist compound, doing incredibly dangerous field work to lay eyes on its specific target. All of this work is then routed through Whitehall, where the top brass (including a stoic Rickman) figure out the political ramifications of firing a hellfire missile through the terrorists' roof.

The problem is that a young girl is selling bread a few feet from the house and there is a good chance she would be killed in the blast. Almost the entire running time of the film is spent with these people as they try to weigh the benefits of killing the terrorists (who have a few recruits with suicide vests inside) with the horror of murdering a little girl just trying to live her life. These conversations are potently intense, creating a wonderful balance of tension and character work.

None of these characters are presented as bloodthirsty war mongers. They are simply looking at the numbers: if the men with suicide vests leave the building, they will more than likely go to a populated area and kill hundreds, whereas if they are blown up in their house, one child will almost certainly die. The script doesn't let the audience off the hook as it continues creating fascinating arguments for both sides without setting foot over either line.

"Eye in the Sky" is smart and well-made without being flashy and completely dedicated to giving audiences a new way of viewing the world. Every minute of the film dwells solely in shades of grey, which is where most people reside anyway, but this movie aims to make the fogginess just a little clearer.

"Eye in the Sky"

Dir. Gavin Hood

Grade: A-

Now Playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX

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