Eye in the Sky – Review

There’s something wonderful about watching a movie without reading or hearing any reviews. You have no expectations and haven’t been told what to think, but given the calibre of the cast, you hope they won’t let you down. Such was the case with Eye in the Sky, a taut thriller about ethics and morality in 21st century warfare. The presence of A list stars such as Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman is usually a good sign, while Aaron Paul, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen and Monica Dolan didn’t hurt matters either. 

The premise is simple. When assorted terrorists collect in one African house, the desire to take them out with a single drone strike is tantalising. However, the fact a little girl is selling bread in the blast radius means the remote warriors have a clash of conscience. Can they justify sacrificing one girl’s life if it means a bunch of terrorists will be erased in one go, and save the lives of potential victims in a pending suicide bombing? 

Juggling the numbers to minimise fatality while constantly “referring up” to different VIPs means this could be one of those yawnsome movies involving assorted phone calls, video conferences and the like, but it’s a testament to director Gavin Hood that he manages to make this as gripping as he does. 

Another strong aspect of the movie is Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips as the ground agent spying on the terrorists while trying to keep his cover. Not that easy when there’s a curious villager wondering if he’s playing a game on his mobile instead of operating a minute flying camera. For an actor that held his own in a scene with Tom Hanks in that movie, he’s proved once more to be an outstanding complement to a film, adding authenticity to the proceedings. 

Though the movie could work as well on the stage, it’s well worth a look on the big screen as events unfold in real time, a bit like that 12 part UK run of 24 which also focuses on hot button topic, drone strikes. 

Obviously as this was Alan Rickman’s last on screen performance, it’s hard not to watch the film without a poignant twang. The fact he signs off with the best scene in the movie reminds us of what an immense talent we have lost, and what a great actor he was. 

Laced with flashes of humour, great editing and a tense score, EITS is a thriller that engages the brain as well as the heart. 

Like the remote weaponised plane at the heart of the drama, this locks you in its sights and hits its target with pinpoint accuracy. 


Kingsman: The Secret Service – The review

A few months ago I was on the set of a low budget British movie called Slapper and Me. Wandering around the soundstages was a young actor with the air of someone who was destined for great things. He looked like the sort of bloke breathing rarefied air.
After looking at his CV on IMDb, I saw he was set to appear in the new film from Mathew Vaughn and was intrigued.
Fast forward to now, and we have one of the most audacious British movies seen in many a year.
Thrilling fight scenes, dapper secret agents, gadgets galore and some of the filthiest dialogue to ever grace a Bond-inspired movie.
Welcome to Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn’s splendid homage to classic gentleman spy capers such as John Steed’s Avengers, 007 and assorted other genre classics.
Colin Firth is a perfect fit as Harry Hart, the agent who owes a debt to his dead colleague.
So after paying his widow (Samantha Womack) a visit, years later, grown up tearaway ’Eggsy’ (Taron Egerton) calls in Hart’s debt; he gets Eggsy out of prison after a joy riding incident.
Every Bond-inspired fantasy adventure needs a megalomaniac ready to take over the world, and a lisping Samuel L Jackson clearly has a great time as the obligatory bad guy.
With his slinky female sidekick, and her lethal artificial feet, the duo are a formidable match for Hart and Eggsy as they plan a global cull via Sim cards.
The first half of the movie feels like Vaughn’s previous hit, X-Men: First Class. Training exercises to get the young protagonists up to speed, followed by a do-or-die mission in which they get to execute said skills.
But there are also standout set pieces that linger in the mind long after the closing credits have rolled. In this case there is a scene in a church that has to be seen to be believed.
Harry Hart’s assault on the congregation makes it one of the most jawdropping scenes of recent years, while you’ll never hear Lyrnrd Skynyrd’s Freebird in the same way again.
Then there is that thrilling finale. It clearly owes a debt more to Austin Powers or Keith Lemon rather than any Ian Fleming creation.
There are no Bond-style double entendres here. Vaughan and cowriter Jane Goldman set their juvenile stall out amid brilliant flashing lights just in case you didn’t get the innuendo.
Co-star Michael Caine clearly had it written into his contract that he could play the whole movie sat down, while there is good support from Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Jack Davenport among others.
Halfway through Kingsman, I was having such a good time I thought I could watch this again. And although I probably would have changed that final derriere-centric scene, this is great entertainment made by a team at the top of their game.
It might not be by Royal approval, but judging by the fact my screening was almost sold out, I imagine it will go down a storm with the masses, even if some do come out shocked.