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Eye in the Sky


Stars: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Iain Glen, Richard McCabe, Jeremy Northam, Phoebe Fox, Carl Beukes, Kim Engelbrecht, Armaan Haggio, Aisha Takow, Lex King

Director: Gavin Hood

Helen Mirren is convincingly steely as a military intelligence officer who, based in London, is in remote command of a covert drone operation designed to capture a group of dangerous Al-Shabaab terrorists including a radicalised Englishwoman who has joined in their operation.

But the discovery that the terrorists are about to embark on a lethal suicide mission switches the operation from one of surveillance and capture to a murder mission to be accomplished by sending in an American drone, ‘piloted’ by Aaron Paul from a US base in Nevada, to demolish the safe house and everyone in it.

And then what appears to be an acceptable lethal mission is transformed into a horrifying moral dilemma when a nine-year-old Somali girl bread-seller is seen to be remaining in the kill zone, leaving local Somali operative Barkhad Abdi racing against time to save the child’s life…

Nerve-scraping tension rises as a mealy-mouthed international debate begins involving smoothly sinister Alan Rickman (chilling in his last screen role) as Mirren’s superior and various equally creepy politicians and similar high-level movers-and-shakers to decide whether a young girl’s life is worth saving in the context of the operation and, even more disturbingly, in terms of public opinion.

Director Gavin Hood’s skin-tingling suspenser had me hooked right from the start when he established his key African location as Eastleigh in Nairobi, Kenya, here shown as a grim sun-drenched slum. What hit me particularly hard was that when I was growing up in Nairobi all those years ago, Eastleigh was an airport: now Somalis primarily inhabit the neighbourhood.

South African filmmaker Hood uses his home country locations effectively to make sure that his film, strongly scripted by Guy Hibbert, is compellingly credible in its settings. Potent performances add impact to a thriller whose sharp and basically terrifying blend of political conniving and potential death dealing never lets up and which, impressively, refuses to offer any facile ways out of the emotional maze.

Alan Frank

UK 2015. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 17 Apr 2016