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Eye in the Sky: a white-knuckle suspense film that weighs the cost of war

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:51 IST

Drone warfare is a moral grey area, and this movie completely gets that right.

In fact, Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky is an edge-of-your-seat thriller throughout primarily because it offers its audience a framework for critically thinking about modern drone warfare and its consequences. (It's also quite rare for a movie to be able to wring so much tension from shots of people staring at screens and talking on the phone.)

For years, UK Colonel Katherine Powell (Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren) has been tracking a radicalised British citizen, and US drones have finally located this target inside a safe house in Nairobi, Kenya.

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There are two spies at the spot - one is played by Oscar-nominated actor Barkhad Abdi. They fly two micro-drones - shaped like a bird and a beetle - to spy on the property where the terrorists are meeting.

But when surveillance footage shows that they are preparing suicide vests, a trigger-happy Powell turns her mission, which was just to capture, into an order to kill.

But as US drone pilot Steve Watts (Jeese Pinkman, whoops, I mean Aaron Paul) is about to push the red button that will launch the deadly Hellfire missile from a bunker in Nevada, a little girl enters the kill zone to sell bread.

Her presence sparks a debate about the strike's morality and legality at all levels of the US and UK governments, which ropes in UK Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman in his final on-screen role).

A still from the film

It creates a domino effect: more leaders are pulled in, more views are challenged.

That was the most fascinating part of the movie: seeing the group's kaleidoscope of opinions; each person passionately makes their case for either shooting or not shooting the Hellfire missile.

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It is an intricate look at how war is waged in the 21st century. Thanks to Mirren and Rickman's performances, we get to see how every option that has to be weighed by to make such split-second moral decisions. Because of Aaron Paul's performance, we see what weight that young drone pilots and soldiers have to walk away with after pressing a button that unleashes destruction on many lives, some innocent.

And we, the audience, walk away with the feeling that the world is more grey now than it ever was.

RATING: 3.75 out of 5

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First published: 19 March 2016, 6:19 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.