Eye in the Sky (Blu-ray)

July 1, 2016 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

A few months ago I reviewed a movie called Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke. In it was some of the complex moral dilemmas about an Air Force pilot who had become a drone pilot. It explored the emotional aspect of one’s job and the (negative) impact it had on he and his family. Admittedly, before that film came out, I had not really given a lot of thought to drone warfare or even drones in general. I think the most I really knew about them was that Amazon was thinking about doing their deliveries via drone. Clearly there’s more to them than that! After watching both that film and Eye in the Sky, I now realize that drone warfare is an integral part of the worldwide military and is the “new” way of combatting terrorism. And I don’t think I have to say how unnerving it is for someone in a room halfway around the world to be able to push a button and take another person out is (pardon the run-on sentence). It’s downright scary and it gives the military an almost god-like power that many think they should not have. And that debate is somewhat at the heart of the film. Let’s look a bit closer…

Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, has had her eyes on targets for six years. The stars have now aligned and three of the top terrorists are located in a small house and all she needs to do is push a button and they’re gone. But it’s never that easy. Lt. General Frank Bensen (Alan Rickman, in one of his last screen roles) is in a room with the Attorney General and other various heads of British state. They need to ensure that this kill is legally warranted so as to avoid criticism that would paint them in a negative light. After going through the various chains of command and red tape, Powell gets permission and it’s up to Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) to pull the trigger. However, a young girl is selling bread outside of the target zone and will most likely be killed by the attack. And therein lies the moral debate of the film: is one girl’s life worth possibly preventing the hundreds that could be taken by the terrorists inside the home?

Watching the film I was obviously reminded of Good Kill, but also of one of my favorites from the ’90’s – Crimson Tide. In it, a nuclear submarine is given an order to fire to prevent a rebellion. But they only get a message fragment. The Captain (Gene Hackman) wants to fire, but the Commander (Denzel Washington) wants to wait for the entire order. It’s a morality question and it made for an extremely tense and entertaining film. The question here is much the same – do they take out the target while they’ve got the chance or wait and save a helpless child? It’s important to note that the characters aren’t portrayed as malicious sociopaths who “get off” on killing. They’re doing their job and all are genuinely affected by the situation. But with great power (drone warfare) comes great responsibility and that’s the heart of the film. No doubt this has sparked countless of debates and there’s no right or wrong answer. And that makes for a great film.

Video: How’s it look?

Presented in a 2.40:1 AVC HD image, Eye in the Sky looks crisp, clean and clear. There are a few different “sources” used in the film, however, as a majority of the film has shots that are viewed through a camera, some even through remote control insects that broadcast video and so forth. Interior shots seem a bit on the flat side, then again a military set up in a room with concrete walls can only look so good, right? There are many ariel shots that look good and showcase the clarity of the format. Flesh tones seem warm and natural, though some of the scenes where Rickman’s character tend to be a bit flat as well. It’s not a bad image, by any means, it just lacks the “pop” that some other newer titles have.

Audio: How’s it sound?

There’s one moment when the included DTS HD Master Audio sound mix really pays off (and if you read the review, I’m guessing you can connect the dots). The remainder of the film is a lot of vocals and some ambient background noise. Phones ringing, the general “buzz” with some scenes all sound good, but it doesn’t make for an amazing soundtrack. This is one of those tracks that really relies on a few key moments, but aside from that – there’s nothing too terribly memorable. Still, like the video presentation, it serves its purpose.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Perspectives – Unfortunately the extras included play out like a glorified trailer. This segment gives us a few interviews with the actors as well as the theme of the movie.
  • Morals – This is pretty much the same thing as above, except it explores the morality of it all a bit more (hence the name of the feature).
  • Previews – Additional Universal titles are profiled.

The Bottom Line

This is a pretty tense film and one that’s bound to inspire some controversy. Actually, it did. Helen Mirren takes ownership of her role and the supporting cast is fine as well. It’s sad to see Alan Rickman in one of his final screen roles, but he ends it with a bang when he’s challenged by a UK minister Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.”

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