“Eye in the Sky” considers the moral dilemma of drone warfare

Modern warfare is complicated. Gone are the days when two opponents would meet on a battlefield and fight to the death until one side ultimately surrenders. Today, wars are fought through surveillance and conference calls.

Director Gavin Hood shows the logistics of these technological issues in his new film, “Eye in the Sky,” as he dives deep into modern drone warfare and certain morality issues that arise through it. In a fictional tale based off of Somali and Kenyan relations, Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is put in a tough position when a young girl walks into the blast radius of an air strike she is attempting to launch against the leader of recent suicide bombings in Kenya. If the strike is launched, the girl will almost certainly be killed as collateral damage. If they do nothing, hundreds more could die by the hands of the next suicide bomber they let escape.

While being somewhat similar to 2014’s “Good Kill,” “Eye in the Sky” is quite good at taking a relevant topic and turning it into a tensely realistic and complicated story. The film asks big questions without being able to give any easy answers. Rather, it dissects the issue and tries to find the lesser of two evils.

As Powell decides what her next move is going to be, she is constantly required to seek approval from higher ranked government officials, including that of Lt. General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman). Showing the long and complicated process of military decision making, the film is careful not to paint any of these characters one-dimensionally. Instead, even if we may not agree with the decision itself, we understand each character’s thought process and motivation for how to proceed.

“Eye in the Sky” marks Rickman’s final on-screen performance before his untimely death this past January. His character is well acted, and his final scenes serve as a testament to why he was such a respected actor. Helen Mirren also gives one of the better performances she’s had in awhile.

Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) is another highlight the film has to offer, as he portrays the drone pilot trying to come to terms with what he is being told to do. While he doesn’t get much screen time, he plays the part well. Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”) finally reappears on-screen again after his Oscar nomination in 2013 in a very intense and realistic performance.

While war films have become relatively common over the last decade, few stand out as being able to push past the cliches of the genre. “The Hurt Locker,” “American Sniper” and “Lone Survivor” are a few that have managed to do so by displaying the moral dilemmas that go hand-in-hand with war. “Eye in the Sky” has earned a spot on that list, as it shows the complexity that arises when human lives are at stake in a way that is as heart-pounding as it is tragic.