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Saturday, August 20, 2016

EYE IN THE SKY (2015)

Something of a throwback to what used to be called a ‘thinking man’s’ thriller (gender-neutral replacement term, anyone?) about the ways, means & morals of modern anti-terrorist drone warfare. There’s a ‘60s feel to Gavin Hood’s film, very Sidney Lumet, only past suspense tactics (like will we hit the target!) have gone by the wayside. The titular ‘eyes in the skies’ make that nearly a given. In its place, new obstacles like conflicting multi-national rules-of-engagement, or signing off on possible collateral damage to innocent civilians. And because most decisions happen in video-enabled war rooms with political appointees weighing in, or at bunkers halfway ‘round the world staffed by military joystick jockeys, war philosophy as well war mechanics fall askew between the abstract and the concrete. Or do except for some old-fashioned, and extremely well-played, on-site fast-thinking heroics by a local field-agent/fighter, superbly played by Barkhad Abdi. Everyone else is equally fine, with Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam & Alan Rickman (in one of his final perfs) standouts. Only an overly emotional response by trigger operators Aaron Paul & Phoebe Fox (a Debra Winger clone) ring false. Not that they wouldn’t be shaken by events, but that the jitters would likely kick in at some random post-event moment. But this is nit-picking on a tight, tense 90+ minutes, which also functions as corrective to much of the thoughtlessly violent military action fare flooding the market. Though it's hard to imagine much crossover. (Another quick reminder that our FAMILY FRIENDLY label does not necessarily mean Kiddie Fare, but often a good 'talking points' pic for, say, parents & teens.)

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