Eye in the Sky

A godlike eye in the sky that can send down hellfire; fake-fly-on-the-wall drones capable of entering anyone’s home to observe their most intimate moments; militia and religious police who, in the name of God, watch, search, and regulate every aspect of a person’s existence or end it with guns and explosive. In a place with no privacy, your life is not your own.

A routine coordinated U.S.-U.K. surveillance mission supporting local special forces captures jihadi leaders who’re meeting in a Kenyan suburb, and it becomes much more complicated and potentially deadly when a miniature drone reveals terrorists vesting up for imminent suicide bomb attacks. Now Colonel Helen Mirren seeks permission from her bosses to up the ante into an “elimination mission” involving Hellfire missiles and, inevitably, “collateral damage.” Telephone wrangling and finagling follows as the to-go order is delayed while passing it through the “kill chain,” from military to committee members to high-up U.S. and British government ministers, everyone refusing responsibility for the hot-potato decision.

1016eyesky.box.jpgThis mix of militia-filled dusty African markets, air-conditioned drone piloting boxes, and comfortable London cabinet offices are all portrayed with sharp, well-defined, but uninteresting cinematography and lighting. Decent contrast delivers dense earth colors of unpaved Kenyan streets and khaki uniforms with the occasional rich tones of civilian outfits and vehicles. Blacks are deep, and white robes and hijabs are bright. There’s plentiful detail in background photos on pushpin boards, surveillance video, and readable text and maps on computers.

In the highly immersive soundtrack, the driving orchestral African-themed score is continuously in all channels. Quietly working on you in the background, it becomes quite bombastic in action sequences, electronica notes throbbing bassily. Either way, it’s always full and clean with individual instru- ments distinct and moving all around the soundfield. Sound effects—a startling airplane passing overhead and landing, military vehicles hurtling across the screen, and drones shooting diagonally—are accurately panned. Others, including slamming doors and atmospherics at a Ping-Pong tournament (balls and applause all around) are completely lifelike. The endless morally questionable questioning and bet-hedging debate is all clear and resonant.

Two promotional featurettes—all three minutes of them—are what you get as extras, all very hush-hush.

Studio: Universal, 2015
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 102 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Babou Ceesay