So tense it might just leave you breathless!

by Martin Hafer

As this film was playing, I noticed that so many people in the audience were on the edge of their seats or clutching the person next to them…Eye in the Sky is that gripping.  Expertly directed by Gavin Hood (director of the Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language film, Tsotsi), with an excellent story by Guy Hibbert as well as some amazing acting make this one of the best films of the year!  Frankly, I was shocked how much I liked this film and the audience also seemed very pleased.  This picture will be released widely in the coming weeks and I was fortunate enough to see it at the opening night gala at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, Florida.  With an opening night movie this good, expectations for the rest of the festival are very high.

The film is set within a short time period…nearly the actual running time of the movie. It takes place around the globe…in The United Kingdom, Las Vegas, Hawaii as well as Kenya. And, as the action heats up, through expert editing the film works very well…and you feel as if you are there watching the politicians and military personnel as they make their decisions and consider all the consequences.

When the film begins, the Colonel (Helen Mirren) awakens in her home in Britain.  She’s an early riser and in the next scene she’s in a command center looking over live surveillance footage being beamed to them from a drone flying over Kenya.  At first things seem pretty normal. She and the folks in the US and Kenya are going about their jobs keeping an eye on some minor terrorists.  Suddenly the drone catches a glimpse of something very important… three of these people now under surveillance are among the five most wanted terrorists in the region. Two Brits and an American who have converted to radical Islam.  So the Colonel just orders the drone to take them out, right?  Nope…not even close.  Instead, it’s like you have an up close seat to watch the struggle between politicians and military men and women who have very different objectives and senses of duty as they determine what to do next.

Director Gavin Hood Q&A 1
Director Gavin Hood Q&A 1

You see the Colonel go up the chain of command and you realize that the wars of the 21st century are often fought by committee, even in the case of one drone attack.  It’s frustratingly slow and difficult.  Soon, government ministers, prime ministers and generals (one of which is played by Alan Rickman in his final role) all get involved.  And so, although they now all know that these bad folks are there, it takes nearly the entire film for the powers that be to make a decision.  After all, this is in a city. There’s bound to be collateral damage.  These decision-makers are not caricatures but folks who struggle with what to do next… especially when they can see a small child standing close to the house, and firing would probably mean her death.  In many ways, although the film is chock full of amazing current technology and gadgets, it’s also about people; people with enormous decisions ahead of them.  Sounds tense, huh?  It gets worse…one of their micro-drones gets a peek inside, and two of the folks inside this compound are strapping bombs to their bodies and it looks like they are leaving soon!  And, to just kill these people would take out civilians as well. There just doesn’t seem to be any way around that, no matter how hard they try.

Eye in the Sky
Directed by
Gavin Hood
Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
Release Date
11 March 2016
Martin’s Grade: A+

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What I love about Eye in the Sky is that it really doesn’t matter what your opinion is about the war on terror as the film has something for everyone.  It provokes you emotionally, it makes you think about the morality of such warfare, and it definitely knows how to push all the right buttons.  Never have I seen an audience so wrapped up in  film as this one.  I felt my chest tightening throughout and rarely have I felt tension build like it did in this one.

Following this film director Gavin Hood held a Q&A.  I found this incredibly revealing.  The biggest shock to me is that in the movie, there are micro-drones that look almost like birds or insects…and are about the same size.  According to Hood, this is a reality…and they managed to use some amazing CG to make it seem as if they were really using these high tech gadgets.  Additionally, I was surprised to hear that he never got all the participants together and filmed many of the parts separately over a very long period and then pieced them together.

Director Gavin Hood Q&A 2

This was done for practical reasons, as unlike many of Hood’s recent films (such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Ender’s Game), this was an independent film and had to be made on a much smaller budget.  So, the production company was only able to get Ms. Mirren for a week…so they quickly shot these scenes.  Later, Rickman and others were brought on board and their scenes were filmed later.  And as for the American, British and Kenyan locations…they were all done in Hood’s native land, in Cape Town, South Africa.  Despite these shortcuts, there is nothing second-rate about the film.  It looks great but more importantly its one heck of a wild ride!  See this film…and I recommend you see it soon as a film like this works especially well up on a big screen.

Images © Martin Hafer/INFLUX Magazine 2016