Eye in the Sky Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman. Directed by Gavin Hood. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.
Military thriller Eye in the Sky aims to be a complex examination of the moral consequences of drone warfare, but its stakes are so lopsided that it might as well be examining the moral consequences of puppy-kicking. It opens on a cute little girl playing with a hula hoop in the backyard of her Nairobi home, and the next hour or so teases putting that sweet, innocent child in the crosshairs of a joint British-American military operation targeting a terrorist cell. It’s the cheapest kind of suspense, and it only gets more manipulative and heavy-handed as the movie goes on, with a globe-spanning set of military operatives squabbling over the fate of this adorable moppet.
At first, Eye is a sort of engaging military procedural, showing the coordinated efforts of a range of professionals, including a British intelligence officer (Helen Mirren), an American drone pilot (Aaron Paul), a British military liaison (the late Alan Rickman, in his final onscreen role) and a Kenyan undercover agent (Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi), among others. But writer Guy Hibbert and director Gavin Hood never flesh out these characters, and the generally strong performances (especially Mirren’s) only carry them so far.
The fascinating details of military protocol are pushed aside in favor of increasingly laughable scenarios that continually place the hapless child in harm’s way, like some sort of Looney Tunes character. It’s hard to imagine a movie making the audience root for the bombing of a little girl, but Eye in the Sky sure comes close.