Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eye in the Sky (2015)

Car spotted in the parking facility next to the Angelika Film Cafe:

Weird Plano police car photo

I'm guessing this is meant to be a sort of "hey, don't drive drunk, you're better off taking a cab home then being brought to jail in a cruiser" sort of thing, with an implied side of "of you're drinking enough to start trouble..." But it's not exactly clear, and I wondered if, perhaps, towns like Plano might actually have periods where the cops just don't have enough to do, and this helps with the budget.

Anyway, I wound up seeing this with a couple of co-workers who were apparently feeling just as stir-crazy by now as me; there's just really close to nothing to do given that there's Doubly one rental car per three people and little within walking distance. I'd walked the distance to the Angelika the night before, although I would necessarily recommend it, especially since a Texas-sized thunderstorm could happen the next day.

(Yeah, I know, this probably want really severe one at all by local standards, but it came out of nowhere for us.)

I'm glad it was a pretty terrific movie, though, considering one of the guys I was with hadn't been to the movies since roughly Avatar. It would really sink if he actually hit a theater and found the experience disappointing.

One last bit of trivia: I have now reviewed two entirely unrelated films named "Eye in the Sky" here and on eFilmCritic, along with a remake of the first one. Weird, right?

Eye in the Sky (2015)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 23 March 2016 in Angelika Film Cafe Plano #3 (first-run, DCP)

What one often reads about Unmanned Aerial Vehicle strikes may lead such a person to believe that the way concern about collateral damage drives Eye in the Sky marks it as a fantasy, as does the stark, immediate decision that it presents those running such operations. On the other hand, presenting it that way certainly puts the issues that the filmmakers want the audience to consider in sharp relief, and also adds enough drama to the mix that the film is also a fantastic thriller despite it often being built on what might be described as frenzied inactivity.

The situation is this: A joint effort between Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the United States expects radicals from all three to converge in Nairobi today. UK Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is in operational command in London, with the goal of the mission being for Kenyan intelligence officers to capture the terrorists so that they can stand trial. The UAV piloted by Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox) from a US Air Force Base in Nevada is meant to provide surveillance so that a different unit in Hawaii can use facial recognition to confirm targets. It's never that easy, though - the suspects decamp for a less secure location before being positively identified, and while new intelligence may suggest good reason to escalate the rules of engagement from "capture" to "kill", few of the British politicians overseeing the mission alongside Lt. General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) are prepared to do so - especially since the collateral damage will almost certainly include an innocent little girl (Aisha Takow) selling her mother's fresh-baked bread right next to the terrorists' urban compound.

The screenplay by Guy Hibbert presents a situation that, while not ideal, is ideally dramatic, presenting the decision-makers with moral dilemmas made all more keen by the fact that both their intelligence and weaponry is rather precise, likely far more so than it ever is in the real world. That dramatic license brings the main theme - that being able to operate on a more granular level presents one with more specific, less abstracted, consequences - into sharp focus. Intriguingly, this works because of something that often seems like a cheap trick in the movies: A few scenes showing Alia early on get the audience to care about her more than the anonymous people around her, and the same thing happens with Watts and Gershon, who spotted Alia playing with a hula hoop earlier. Certainly, many of those involved would have qualms about random civilians, but this exploits a very familiar piece of human psychology to bring the issue into sharp relief.

Full review on EFC.

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