A VOICE of BALTIMORE FILM REVIEW
Journalist/author Bjarne Rostaing reviews a recent film with political implications
starring the venerable Helen Mirren, one of a select group of performers
to achieve the so-called ‘Triple Crown of Acting’
A sexy bitch on wheels
By Bjarne Rostaing
By now everyone knows who Helen Mirren is. She’s won all the awards, she’s convincing as a cop or a queen, and she’s always been hot.
Her exotic roots — Russian nobility and Romani gypsy on one side, solid English working class on the other — produced a reliably excellent presence with great range that sticks to the emotional ribs.
Over time Mirren has achieved an eminence that allows her great freedom, and she pretty much owns “Eye in the Sky,” a thriller driven by several potent and omnipresent realities: armed drones, establishment decision-makers stepping on themselves, and the 21st Century power woman.
That’s Mirren as Col. Katherine Powell, driven by the death of a colleague murdered by a terrorist group.
Her counterpoint is a room full of those decision-makers, including at least one lawyer and cabinet minister. They debate and dither while Mirren manipulates and the camera darts around the globe, Nairobi to Nevada to Pearl Harbor to London.
Under director Gavin Hood it becomes a frenzied dystopian arrhythmic mental chase. Everyone is focused on what’s happening inside a suicide-bomber house as Mirren grinds forward and the hesitant senior deciders weigh the political risk in that big rich room full of power.
It’s a simple decision and it needs to be quick. It has been an observe/capture mission.
Under extreme time pressure and imminent danger of multiple same-day suicide bombings, does it become a strike-and-kill? The “eye in the sky” is an armed drone ready to strike, and collateral damage becomes a critical issue, embodied in a child who will be injured or die in a strike.
Like the film’s tempo, this is cranked up to overkill, but it opens space for Somali actor Barkhad Abdi (of “Captain Phillips”), whose humane bearing and sensibility reveal the limitations of the robotic acting that the film’s tempo forces on the other actors.
Abdi takes time to be subtle, and his interlude with the child is a relief, humanizing the film and easing the pressure with his slower stronger personal rhythm. Where Mirren becomes her mission, he does not, but relates to the other actors in his sequences more naturally.