Eye in the Sky (2016) Movie Review

In Eye in the Sky, a joint security task force between the UK, the U.S., and Kenya plan a combined drone and ground strike on a meeting of high-level Al-Shabaab terrorists in Nairobi. When the operation starts breaking down, the scenario boils down to a political debate over whether or not to utilize a drone strike to take down the targets.


The film attempts topical commentary inside the drama-thriller framework it is working with. What works most readily is the drama. Fine acting from all involved, particularly the incomparable Helen Mirren and late Alan Rickman, keep the beats of the narrative terse in pace and engaging.

What is less effective is the thriller component. While the politics of the matter at hand is taut with obstacles and verbal altercations, the rising action of the on-the-ground plot doesn’t rise in intensity as intended. Moments of increasing danger and time sensitivity occur, but they don’t ooze with the tension that the script calls for. That is, until the very end, when tension does build into the climax.

The topical nature of the film is the most problematic. While the technical element is interesting and translates decently to film, Eye in the Sky works hard to put in a pathos argument against the use of drone strikes, and these tactics feel forced. Characters are created and given lengthy first-act screentime in order to make the possibility of violence higher in terms of stakes. Keen viewers will likely be able to predict the fates of certain characters from the moment they first appear on screen.

I will say this pathos-centric aspect of the film comes to a head, becoming the most thrilling point of the film, yet it is a predictable outcome from scene one.

The moral quandary at the heart of the film is more of a burden on the tension than an augmentation of it. Eye in the Sky attempts to transcend mere political action thriller with its topical commentary, but it leads to redundant scenes and a diffusion of tension that is detrimental to the film’s overall success.

Eye in the Sky, aside from its problematic politics and lackluster tension, does deliver in the end. The final third makes up for the the lack of intensity previous to it, the acting is commendable, and the cinematographic framing of technology adds to the overall experience.

As always, thanks for reading!

Have you seen Eye in the Sky? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments

—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

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