“Eye in the Sky”

LOUISA:  1.5 STARS    MATT:   3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I’m sure there were noble intentions behind the new war film “Eye in the Sky.” An exploration of the rules of engagement, wartime ethics and moral dilemmas when dealing with drones should have been compelling, but this film isn’t engrossing, is far from disturbing, and is neither intelligent nor thrilling. Even if you discount the absolute worst parts of the film, including the comically mediocre computer generated drones (some shaped like birds and beetles!) and the pitifully irrelevant attempts at exciting action sequences, this film is still a tremendous failure.

Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren give performances that are up to their usual high standards but even they are pretty boring. And Aaron Paul, who has squandered all of the goodwill he earned as Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad,” proves once again that he’s the sole overlord and master of teary eyed close ups (which is a good thing because that’s all he is given to do in films nowadays).

The entire plot of the movie revolves around drone pilots in the U.S. waiting for instruction from the British government and military to launch a drone strike on a house filled with several high level terrorist targets. If they bomb the house there will be some collateral damage, including a cute little innocent African girl who loves to hula hoop and is selling bread on the corner. Instead of a nail biting, moral wringing, thoughtful thriller about the true cost of war, the film turns into an absolutely silly “will they or won’t they” exercise about how quickly this kid can sell her 8 loaves of bread. I am not joking. Get ready for dialogue gems like “he’s buying a loaf of bread, now there are only 6 loaves left!” The entire audience (including me) eventually started laughing at this, and I’m fairly certain that’s not what the filmmakers intended.

No doubt the increase in drone warfare is a touchy and tricky subject, but this throwaway film does nothing to raise any important questions and instead relies on scene after scene of competent actors repeatedly asking “can we bomb them yet?

MATT SAYS:

“Eye in the Sky” is a thriller about the new reality of conflict — one where terrorism is fought by powerful countries with drones and other long-range weapons that take the humanity out of killing — but, contrary to what its trailer tells you, the movie is far from being an updated modern version of “Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Like the 2015 movie “Good Kill,” the warriors fighting against terrorism in “Eye in the Sky” are not on the ground, but housed far away in bunkers, war rooms, and combat centers in the United Kingdom and in the U.S. where they are able to observe real-time events and act on them through their drones. But is killing via drone really impersonal, or are our drone pilots and those who command them still forced to deal with sticky issues of morality, weighing the murder of a few against saving many lives?

These are interesting questions, but after having seen two movies on the subject, I’m not so sure that cinema is the right place to explore them. In modern drone warfare, it is no longer kill-or-be-killed, but instead decisions are driven by the security and safety interests of state writ large. Thorny issues of morality are hard to resolve in these situations. “Eye in the Sky” effectively conveys the difficulty of making these large decisions — and that there are actual human beings making them — but in the process it becomes a bit paint-by-numbers. It may not be the fault of the filmmakers; it’s probably very difficult to make a movie exciting when the most tense scene involves someone selling loaves of bread.

Supported by strong performances with a stellar cast (Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul), this movie is better than your average Redbox / Netflix thriller that you might rent on a night when you are running low on entertainment options, but not by much.

 

 

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12 thoughts on ““Eye in the Sky”

  1. Such a difference of opinion guys; I love it. I disagree with both your assessments and think this is a standout film in its class. Drop in for a read of my take on it.

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  2. I think I am the only film critic in the world who absolutely hated the movie. It just didn’t work for me. I think war / morality movies like 2014’s “Fury” and even 2007’s “The Kingdom” did a better job exploring the serious issues of combat. And I think “Good Kill” was a much better ‘drone movie.’ OMG and Aaron Paul — all he is good for in movies lately is the close-up teary-eyed cry! The bread selling and buying scenes were just too laughable for me to take this movie seriously. Loved reading your take on it, though! — Louisa

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  3. I could not disagree with Louisa more, Matt as well, but not as much. I think you’re completely discounting how the sequence of events were executed.

    I agree that the premise is simple, but there is so much else in regards to performances, the moral, political and legal questions that arise from this film, and the intrigue of how modern warfare has changed with the times.

    I would understand the criticism of the film if the directing and acting were subpar, but it seems like the reasoning this review presents for the movie being stupid is because girls with hoola-hoops, selling bread, and close ups of Aaron Paul’s face, and I think that’s shallow.

    I don’t mean to be insulting and I realize film is meant to be up to interpretation, so I deeply apologize if what I say seems antagonistic, but I felt like putting my two-cents in.

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    1. Hi Steve, Louisa writing here. I stand behind my review of “Eye in the Sky.” I watch a LOT of movies and this was just a failure on nearly every level for me. There are so many other recent films that present questions about the morality of war that do a far better job with their subject matter (The Pianist, Fury, The Hurt Locker, and even The Kingdom). “Eye in the Sky” was such a mess that it didn’t work for me at all. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the movie stupid, but the writing was pretty awful and it’s a shame that what could’ve been a very thoughtful exploration about modern warfare turned into nothing more than a “will they or won’t they” back and forth. I really hated the movie. I’m hoping Matt will chime in too!

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      1. Give me an example of the writing being bad that happened in the movie.

        And give me an example of how they could have been more “thoughtful” about exploring modern warfare.

        I watched this movie too, and I couldn’t think of an example where the writing was bad or where they weren’t thoughtful about exploring modern warfare (whatever that means).
        If your argument for the movie being bad is that it wasn’t groundbreaking or didn’t explore new grounds, then fine, I could agree with that. But if the intention of the movie wasn’t necessarily to redefine how we look at modern warfare, then it’s still an unfair argument.

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      2. I think when a movie so obviously wants to present itself as some sort of astute political commentary or philosophical opus on the “horrors of war,” I think it’s fair to hold it to a higher standard (thus the “thoughtful exploration of modern warfare,” i.e. let’s start the discussion about the use of drones and bombing the hell out of people from the comforts of a stateside cubicle).

        This movie should have been so much better but it instead felt like a long session of will-they-or-won’t-they. NOBODY DOES ANYTHING except keep going up the chain of command, falling back down the ladder and starting back rung by rung. It didn’t work for me and it really hurt the message the film was trying to convey.

        I saw this movie several weeks ago and I always write my reviews within hours of leaving the theater, so I don’t have a copy of the screenplay nor do I want to sit through this movie ever again. But when I mention the bad writing I’m talking mostly about the asinine dialogue along the lines of “She has 3 loaves left,” or “Well now we have to wait to drop the bomb!” I guarantee that I could take a few scenes from the film and add a laugh track and it would play like a television sitcom.

        The unnecessary action scenes and visual effects were outrageously awful. I also hated the heavy-handed “war is hell” messages (Rickman and the toy doll — COME ON), and the hula hoop ending that caused more of an eye roll from me than any sort of emotional response (I hate when a film is so obvious in its intentions to manipulate me; a good movie can do that without me realizing it).

        I didn’t find the movie to be the least bit provocative, it didn’t encourage me to explore fresh questions about morality, and it didn’t raise any new, original or particularly intelligent points. I realize I am in the minority here but this movie just didn’t work for me.

        I really appreciate your comments and debate about this movie! — Louisa

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  4. Well… I disagree with a lot of what you have to say (well… actually, I did agree with you about the hoola-hoop scene during the credits… that was pretty stupid), but I understand certain movies just not working for certain people (Zootopia was movie. I thought it was mostly garbage, but everyone else disagrees with me). I could argue your points if you wanted to, but I’m fine with leaving the conversation here.

    I’m glad you appreciated it! I was afraid that I was coming off too strong against your disapproval of the movie. Haha.

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