• by Wes Singleton

Review: Eye in the Sky, B+

Rated R, 102 minutes

The taut, relevant new war drama "Eye in the Sky" is a stirring examination of what it means to be engaged in a contemporary battle. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. When Powell learns the targets are planning a suicide bomb, the mission escalates from "capture" to "kill." But as American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the moral, political, and personal implications of modern warfare. The first few words you'll see in the tense and timely new drama "Eye in the Sky" are the words from Greek dramatist Aeschylus: "In war, truth is the first casualty." Those words have never been more telling in our current society, where decisons are made daily to engage the target while perhaps saving many lives in the process, but deep down, what are the real sacrifices made? The film, directed by "X-Men Origins: Wolverine's" Gavin Hood and written by British screenwriter Guy Hibbert, is expertly told from several different perspectives: Mirren's aggressive commander, her colleague and Lieutenant Benson (the excellent Alan Rickman, in one of his final roles), who must deal with the political ramifications, the pilot ("Breaking Bad's" Paul) who must make the final drop, and the agent on the ground close to the action (Barkhad Abdi of "Captain Phillips"), all of whom are in some contact with each other throughout the film. An intriguing note: save for Skype screens, none of the four leads share screentime with each other, and Hood shot footage with each of them separately, a unique method that works effectively here. Though the topic is hardly new itself, "Sky" gives fresh commentary on modern warfare, even if you know that when the young girl enters the proceedings things will change a little; it may seem a little unrealistic in terms of current affairs for the premise to revolve around this, though in fact she is likely symbolic of collateral damage as a whole. Rickman's character has the most telling line when he tells a colleague and staunch opponent of the mission: "don't ever tell a soldier he doesn't understand the casualties of war." The smart, often riveting and thought-provoking "Eye in the Sky," much like today's battles, moves swiftly and often nonchalantly on to other battles, but you won't soon forget that little girl selling bread on the corner.

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