An eye for varied views

Eye In The Sky, which stars the late Alan Rickman (above), is directed by Gavin Hood.
Eye In The Sky, which stars the late Alan Rickman (above), is directed by Gavin Hood.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION
Eye In The Sky, which stars the late Alan Rickman, is directed by Gavin Hood (above).
Eye In The Sky, which stars the late Alan Rickman, is directed by Gavin Hood (above).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Director Gavin Hood offers different perspectives in the military thriller, Eye In The Sky, so moviegoers become the jury

The tense military thriller Eye In The Sky revolves around the drone missile strike that tests the moral compass of everyone involved in the operation.

While other films about drones take the point of view of American pilots and other military personnel, the scope of this independent film is wider.

It features a range of viewpoints, from men and women, and also from the Americans, British and Kenyans. Most uniquely for films of this genre, its views include those of people living in the missile's strike zone.

In a telephone interview with The Straits Times, director Gavin Hood, 52, says the story "puts us in the shoes of characters who have very different jobs and therefore very different views on the strike".

As a clock counts down, hawks and doves in the military and government across three continents squabble, arm-twist and barter favours.

Meanwhile, in a dusty Kenyan town, terror suspects mingle with innocent civilians, both unaware that their lives depend on a decision made thousands of kilometres away in Washington and London.

Hood, originally from South Africa, was drawn to the script by English screenwriter Guy Hibbert because it forces the viewer to pick a side.

"The audience is the jury, which is presented with many perspectives. We don't tell you what to think, but we present you with the evidence to allow you to make a decision," he says.

It is no surprise that Hood is a fan of the 1957 drama 12 Angry Men, a classic movie about jurors debating the guilt or innocence of an 18- year-old held for the murder of his father.

The former actor played Juror Number 8 in one production, he says, and enjoyed the experience immensely.

Hood's directing resume includes Ender's Game (2013), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and the spy thriller Rendition (2007).

A key character in Eye is that of British military intelligence officer Colonel Kathleen Powell, played by Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren. Powell is a hard charger who thinks that assassinating a few to save many is the right choice, even if innocents are killed as collateral damage.

It is a role that sounds traditionally masculine and was originally written for a male actor.

But the more Hood read of the script, the more Mirren stood out as the right choice for the part, he says.

Also, he wanted to avoid typecasting women as more caring about innocents and men as less.

"I didn't want to make a war movie that was for men only and the ethical questions raised by it should be discussed by men and women," he says.

The part is also one of Bafta- winning actor Alan Rickman's last roles. The actor, best known for his parts in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991) and for playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter (2001-2011) films, died of pancreatic cancer in January this year.

Rickman plays Lieutenant-General Frank Benson, an officer fed up with political interference in military decisions.

Hood says that during filming in South Africa in 2014, no one had any idea that Rickman was ill.

Critics have praised Rickman's portrayal of an officer trying to do his job while politicians dither and pass the buck.

Hood thinks it is because the actor brought depths of nuance to a part that would otherwise have felt cliched.

"We were fortunate to have him on this film. He was a witty, highly intelligent man who brought so much more to the role. If a competent but lesser actor had done it, you would have had a general who was irritated and frustrated," he says.

"But what Alan brought to it were beautiful moments of emotional truth and, at the same time, wit and sarcasm."

  • Eye In The Sky is now showing in cinemas.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'An eye for varied views'. Print Edition | Subscribe