Archives for March 2016

March 15, 2016 - No Comments!

‘Eye In The Sky’ TV Spot With Drone Attacks Depicted In Film Uses Obama Voiceover

From Deadline

By Anita Busch

Eye in the Sky — the drama about drone strikes — is so timely that distributor Bleecker Street is using President Barack Obama’s speech about the new technology as the voice-over for the film’s TV spot, which is debuting tonight during the Republican debate (watch it above). How? Insiders said the President’s speech is considered public domain now as it has been referred to and repeated so many times.

Eye in the Sky, one of the last films with the late Alan Rickman, will be released Friday, and the timing couldn’t have been more coincidental. The powerful film from director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) and writer Guy Hibbert is a nail-biter as characters argue over the rules of engagement and the legality and morality of war in making a decision about a drone strike in Kenya that targets the Al-Shabaab militant group. The eOne Features film mirrors what happened just this week in Somalia, when the U.S. military killed 150 Islamist Al-Shabaab militants in strikes carried out in part by drones.

The film, also starring Helen Mirren and Barkhad Abdi, is one of the few movies —Fruitvale Station comes to mind — that allows the audience to come to know victims before tragedy strikes, giving high value to a single life; in this case, it’s a little girl selling bread who’s in danger of becoming “collateral damage.” However improbable, it pits the cold mind of the military establishment against the morality of (wait for it) politicians. Of course, it doesn’t take place in thiscountry. The commanders are properly British.

There have been other films that unwittingly imitated real life. For instance, after the 2012 Aurora theater massacre during the midnight showing of Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises (where my cousin was murdered along with 11 others), the same studio was readying to release the period mob film Gangster Squad. In one of the scenes, mobsters killed people in a movie theater by shooting into the audience in the same way the shooter did in Aurora.

The studio pulled the film’s trailer, excised the scene and filmed new footage to replace that scene “out of respect for the families,” it said. In reality, it was doubtful a nation of moviegoers would have the stomach for it at the box office — especially releasing the film in a time period where there had been five mass shootings (Aurora, Oak Creek, Milwaukee, Clackamas and Newtown).

For Eye in the Sky, however, Bleecker Street also couldn’t be more surprised that life is imitating its art. The film has suddenly becomes a ripped-from-the-headlines story.

In 1997, then-President Clinton lodged a complaint with Warner Bros over the use of his press conference comments about a Mars meteorite being found “as one of the most stunning insights into our universe that science has ever uncovered.” The snippet was inserted into a scene in the Robert Zemeckis-directed Contact to make it look he was talking about messages from aliens. In that instance, however, the president was upset because his words were taken out of context.

In this case, the bits used for the TV spot are mainly pulled from Obama’s speech to the National Defense University about drone strikes and terrorism. Another part appears to be from a Military Academy speech, and the last one about the world we leave to our children is used in at least two speeches, one about drones and one about climate change.

Eye in the Sky was several years in the making and in one of its incarnations had Oliver Hirschbiegel on board to direct. The eOne and Raindog Films project eventually ended up with helmer Hood with Colin Firth (also a producer) attached to star. However, Firth ended up only producing, with the final incarnation starring Rickman. The highly suspenseful film premiered in Toronto to critical raves and a standing ovation. That led to a three-way bidding war that Bleecker Street won in a deal worth more than $2 million.

Bleecker Street is platforming the release this weekend, which is sure to receive a high CinemaScore and enjoy positive word-of-mouth to carry the film through to when it goes nationwide on April 1. It will get an international bow later this spring.

Eye in the Sky is also produced by Ged Doherty and David Lancaster (formerly of Bold Films)

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March 15, 2016 - No Comments!

‘Eye In The Sky’ Review: Helen Mirren Drone Thriller Hits Its Target

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From Deadline

by Pete Hammond

With the compelling and thrilling new drama Eye In The Skywe finally have a drone movie worth cheering about. After last year’s rather lame Ethan Hawke attempt The Good Kill, which mixed a soap operatic subplot into a genuinely potentially interesting story on the human emotional toll taken on Las Vegas-based drone pilots, Oscar-winning South African director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) and screenwriter Guy Hibbert have tacked the controversial subject head-on with a razor-sharp focus on one event that asks us to weigh the moral consequences of this new kind of modern warfare.

Defiantly not a war movie under the common definition of the genre, Eye in the Sky centers on a singular act and what its ramifications are in every term: political, moral, practical and, most of all, what it does to us simply as human beings who all inhabit the same planet. The plot, a rather simple one, centers on the quest of Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), a tough-as-nails British military officer whose command includes a covert (aren’t they all?) drone operation to snuff out a British citizen/terrorist on the run for six years in Kenya. That operation leads to the discovery of not only her target but also a suicide bombing mission about the take place at any moment.

This turns the op from a simple “capture” to an urgent order to “kill” with the use of the American drone surveillance. But just as it is about to be put into effect, a 9-year-old girl sets up shop selling loaves of bread right in the kill zone. Suddenly, with an innocent child in danger of becoming collateral damage, the drama is played out in board and command rooms across three continents — and for the Vegas-based drone pilot (Aaron Paul) with his first-ever “kill” order.

Rarely does a film so effectively and suspensefully spell out the price of war (really any war), and the strategic decisions that must be made in an instant. Do you take one innocent life to potentially save hundreds? That is the quandary at the center here, and I guarantee it will have you on the edge of your seat. Mirren, in a role originally written for a man, is simply superb, as is the late Alan Rickman as the general she reports to. Paul brings the real human element into focus as a young pilot with his hand on a trigger that could have grave consequences well beyond the push of a button. Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) is also excellent as a Nairobi spy who risks his own life in order to help target the enemy.

But it is Hood who brings this all together with the skill of a master craftsman, creating an almost Hitchcockian level of unending, nail-biting suspense in a picture that not only is enormously entertaining but also about as important and thought-provoking as they come. I saw it originally first thing in the morning just before its official opening at September’s Toronto Film Festival and immediately told any distributor I ran into that this was a film worth checking out. This is precisely the kind of movie adult audiences are craving, especially in the more barren spring months where typical Oscar contenders are not released. This should prove an exception to that rule.

Bleecker Street smartly bought the picture (from Entertainment One which co-produced the film iwth Raindog and handles several territories such as UK and Canada as well as International rights)  out of Toronto  for the U.S. and it looks like that decision will pay off as it has opened in L.A. and N.Y to encouraging early box office and great buzz. It will begin to widen more this weekend. Producers are Ged Doherty, Colin Firth and David Lancaster.

March 10, 2016 - No Comments!

Review: ‘Eye in the Sky,’ Drone Precision vs. Human Failings

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From The New York Times

By Stephen Holden

An alternative title to “Eye in the Sky,” a riveting thriller about drone warfare and its perils, might be “Passing the Buck.” When urgent life-or-death decisions are required in a race against time to kill terrorists preparing a suicide attack, officials, wary of being held responsible for civilian casualties, repeatedly “refer up” to higher authorities for final approval.

That means securing an official go-ahead to deploy a Hellfire missile on a house in a crowded neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, where terrorists are meeting. But the British foreign secretary is at an arms trade fair in Singapore and the American secretary of state is attending a table tennis tournament in Beijing. How inconvenient! Meanwhile, the military, champing at the bit to unleash its firepower before the terrorists disperse, are increasingly frustrated.
Helen Mirren, in one of her fiercest screen performances, plays Col. Katherine Powell, the chilly officer in charge of Egret, an operation to capture a radicalized English woman meeting with Shabab terrorists at the house in Nairobi. Colonel Powell has been pursuing her for years. But as the moment of capture arrives, Colonel Powell’s plans abruptly change when a cyborg beetle, a small whirring surveillance device, reveals two inhabitants strapping on explosives for a suicide mission.

The metallic spy, the movie’s creepiest element, reinforces the Orwellian notion that nowadays there are no hiding places if the powers-that-be are out to get you. The characters’ robotic techno argot, intended to convey military expertise while camouflaging human element, is equally Orwellian.

Colonel Powell quickly secures permission from her superior, Lt. Gen. Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), to upgrade the order from “capture” to “kill.” Those orders are relayed to Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), a drone pilot in Las Vegas poised to launch the air-to-surface missile. But unforeseen interruptions keep delaying the attack.

General Benson is Mr. Rickman’s final screen performance, and it is great one, suffused with a dyspeptic world-weary understanding of war and human nature. Because his character is observed early in the movie buying a doll for a child, he is not unsympathetic so much as profoundly sad. Ms. Mirren has rarely been icier, and her powerful, scary performance doesn’t strive to make her character likable.

“Eye in the Sky” covers many of the same issues addressed in “Good Kill,” Andrew Niccol’s underrated critique of American drone strikes in Afghanistan, released last year. At what point does warfare by remote control become an impersonal video game in which the human element is overlooked in the pursuit of a so-called “good kill”? In that movie, Ethan Hawke played a drone operator in Las Vegas increasingly sickened by having to deploy missiles that killed women and children. The movie reserved special contempt for the Central Intelligence Agency, whose attitude toward collateral damage was portrayed as one of indifference. Mr. Paul’s pilot, like Mr. Hawke’s in “Good Kill,” is the farthest thing from a blasé video-gamer eager to set off an explosion. At moments, he seems near tears.

Sharper, better made and better acted, “Eye in the Sky,” doesn’t present as overtly critical a view of drone warfare. The military officers take their work seriously and fret over every detail as they try to estimate the number of casualties for various scenarios.

The movie still makes very clear the contrast between military personnel who want to discharge their duties as efficiently as possible, and their more cautious overseers who calculate the chances that the attacks could spur a diplomatic crisis, or worse.

As in “Good Kill,” civilians keep intruding into the line of sight at the last second. Moments before the Nairobi attack is to begin, a spunky little girl (Aisha Takow) selling bread posts herself opposite the terrorists’ house, and nothing can be done until she leaves. A Somali undercover agent (Barkhad Abdi, from “Captain Phillips) is dispatched to buy up her loaves, but that assignment is interrupted.
An assistant of Colonel Powell is strongly pressured to estimate the chances of the girl’s being killed as less than 50 percent, in which case Colonel Powell can give the order to proceed. Another film might have found black comedy in the continuing “risk assessment” that accompanies each step of the operation. But “Eye in the Sky” allows the story’s absurdist elements to speak for themselves.

Mr. Rickman, musing in oracular tones, delivers the film’s despairing overview that pierces to the heart: “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.”

“Eye in the Sky” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for violent images and strong language. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

March 09, 2016 - No Comments!

Alan Rickman’s last performance in ‘Eye in the Sky’ is one of his best

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From New York Post

By Lou Lumenick

Would you sacrifice a cute 9-year-old-girl to save hundreds of people from a terrorist bombing? That’s the awful choice in “Eye in the Sky,’’ which works equally well as a nail-biting thriller, a dark political satire and a smart examination of the ethics of remote-control war.

Helen Mirren is terrific as Col. Powell, the tough commander of a multinational anti-terrorist task force that, after six years of searching, has finally located a radicalized Englishwoman (Lex King) most recently responsible for a horrific shopping-mall bombing in Nairobi.

With the support of the Kenyan government, there are plans to capture her alive with her American boyfriend, as well as another terrorist on the most-wanted list. But that changes when surveillance shows two Somali terrorists donning explosive vests in a safe house where the three are holed up.

Powell, with the support of Lt. Gen. Benson (the late Alan Rickman), proposes an unmanned-drone bombing strike on the safe house — much to the horror of senior British officials who nervously refer the new decision all the way up the chain of command to the prime minister.

While they’re waiting for the PM and the US president to give the go-ahead, the American drone “pilot’’ (Aaron Paul) who actually has to pull the trigger (from Nevada) notices that a little girl (Aisha Takow) has begun selling bread in the collateral-damage zone just outside the safe house.

Under 21st-century rules of engagement, he’s entitled to ask for a revised “risk assessment’’ — even as the British pols start calculating whether possible p.r. fallout if the girl is accidentally killed might outweigh the benefit of avoiding another terrorist attack with many casualties.

South African director Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine’’) pulls off some really tricky tonal shifts. He’s abetted by a terrific cast, including Barkhad Abdi (Oscar nominated for “Captain Phillips’’) as a surveillance expert who tries to save the girl — and Rickman in his final on-screen appearance, one of his very best.

3 1/2 out of 4 stars