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Movie Review: Eye in the Sky

Drone military warfare was at the heart of psychological thriller, Good Kill and thriller, Drones. It's now the subject of Gavin Hood's latest war drama thriller, Eye in the Sky, starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi and the late Alan Rickman.

We've entered a new age of war, where surveillance has become a double-edged sword functioning as a next generation terrorism counter-measure in exchange for a measure of privacy. Instead of training pilots to man air strikes, we're getting them to execute remote attacks from the safety of their booths.

Eye in the Sky throws us into a Catch 22, where a terrorist cell is targeted in Kenya only to be jeopardised by the appearance of a young girl, who enters the kill zone just as the drone pilot is cleared to destroy the house. With several key terrorists under one roof, the international politics around ordering the drone assault with a good chance of collateral damage, leaves Colonel Katherine Powell in a tricky situation.

Helen Mirren's star power and dramatic heft anchors Eye in the Sky. She's a seasoned actress, whose finesse takes this tense little-big thriller to the next level. It's an interesting role for her as she goes full military ops as a colonel trying to make a calculated global decision on an event that could devastate a family on a micro level, pitting one man against the good of mankind.

She's not alone, headlining a solid cast including: Alan Rickman, as a get-on-with-it British war minister, Aaron Paul as a plucky drone pilot and Barkhad Abdi as the infiltrator. It's further buttoned down by Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen and Babou Ceesay. While we'd like to see more substantial roles going their way, it's great to see a selection of South African talent chiming in with Carl Beukes, Kim Engelbrecht, James Alexander, Vusi Kunene and even Gavin Hood taking on some flak.

Eye in the Sky Movie Review

"I don't care if you have to get the Queen on the line!"

Hood orchestrates this focussed thriller in such a way that even though you know what it's building up to, you're still locked in by the drama and enthralled by the ever-tightening tension. He composes the man-on-the-ground story of a sweet-natured and impoverished Kenyan girl, trying to improve her circumstances under the duress of an inflexible culture. Setting it against an international pressure cooker military situation, where air-to-ground combat essentially gives the decision-makers the power to play God.

It's a thought-provoking drama, which carries the back room politics of a jury deciding the fate of an individual via video conference. Then, it's an authentic and well-crafted military thriller, weighing up the risk of sacrificing one life to potentially save thousands, and navigating the public relations of an international incident.

Eye in the Sky is consistent and uses its strong contrasts to create a natural tension, flipping from one command centre to another as they converge. The production values are strong, creating a convincing urban environment and carrying forth the modern weaponry and surveillance with some solid CGI.

There are one or two distractions: a tone-breaking substory involving a munitions company called IBS and seeing Gavin Hood acting in his own film for a change. However, these moments aren't disruptive enough to derail the train and the quality of the rest of the film more than makes up for them.

Eye in the Sky is a tense topical war drama thriller that is steady, thought-provoking, well-crafted and bolstered by a strong ensemble. It's a great conversation-starter, delving into the politics of war and getting to grips with our current estimation of the value of a human life. The back room discussions have heat, the on-the-street action is thrilling and it adds up to moving and thoughtful entertainment. It could've gone grittier, but checks enough boxes to make it worth giving your full attention.

The bottom line: Tense

Talking Movies with Spling - Anomalisa, Gods of Egypt and The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Spling reviews Anomalisa, Gods of Egypt and The Diary of a Teenage Girl as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Top Ten Movies with... Ian Bredenkamp

If you're looking for someone, who you could call "Mr. Radio"... Ian Bredenkamp is your man. Bredenkamp studied at Stellenbosch University, where he fell in love with radio at Matie FM 92.6. Since the bug bit, the self-proclaimed "music man" has turned his passion into a career. Gaining experience as the programming manager, marketing & PR manager and breakfast show DJ in his varsity days, he decided to follow lifelong hero and SA radio legend, Alex Jay, by moving into commercial radio.

Starting as a news reporter, anchor and prime time producer at 94.5 Kfm, it wasn't long before he became programming manager and 9-12 morning show presenter, overseeing the content and schedules at the no. 1 hit station. Ian's been heard on Talk Radio 702, 94.5 Kfm, 567 Cape Talk, P4 Radio (now Heart 104.9), Matie FM, Bush Radio, Radio CFlat and Rhodes Music Radio. He's all about the music, able to answer just about any music-related question you throw at him... and has been around since the first Nirvana mix tape was played on the Arc.

With more than 15 years in the media game, he was part of the development team of LeadSA and also founded media entertainment PR company, IBMedia. We were lucky to grab an interview with multi-talented and versatile Bredenkamp, whose Top Ten movie selection just emphasises his first love, music!

"I'd make a movie about rock 'n roll baby!"

I can't watch movies without...

- Popcorn and Coke Lite. It's easy to meet this wish at the cinema but a lot harder at home. It's also really bad for my waist line so an all-round bad idea!

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Mick Jagger is the day before me and Madonna and I are together. There’s some serious peer pressure to perform and excel! (16 Aug)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- The first movie I saw was E.T. The Extra Terrestrial from the backseat of my parent's station wagon at the Pietermaritzburg drive-in. I was 6 or 7 years old and was terrified! I kakked my pants right the way through.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Pretty much anything starring Katherine Heigl.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- I cry easily, so it doesn't take much.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Hell, I've been lucky with this. I work in radio so I've interviewed plenty of famous movie stars. I met Samuel L Jackson in his hotel room, I brushed my leg against Juliette Binoche at a press junket and I interviewed Patrick Swayze on the set of King Solomon’s Mines. Many more...

What's your favourite movie line?

- "Hoo-ah!" ~ Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Kevin Spacey with botox.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- I'd make a movie about rock 'n roll baby!

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- The 3 Amigos ...I was 10 when this came out. We had a pirated version and I honest to God watched it a 1000 times on VHS!

- The Empire Strikes Back ...c'mon, this is the best of them all!

- Casino ...The Rolling Stones are peppered throughout the soundtrack. There's blood & guns - it just kicks ass!

- Ray ...first and foremost, I'm a music man. Jamie Foxx nailed Ray! 

- The Doors ...this movie laid the way for a lifelong relationship I've had with Jim Morrison xxx

- Wayne's World ...best soundtrack ever, right?

- Platoon ...another great soundtrack movie. Creedence Clearwater Revival and gun grease. Excellent! 

- Django Unchained ...this movie is full of gut-wrenching surprises.

- The Godfather ...Brando and De Niro made us all want to become Sicilian.

- The Blues Brothers ...a movie with Aretha Franklin? Sign me up!

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Movie Review: Anomalisa

Anomalisa is a Charlie Kaufman... it's probably time we gave him a thing. You know, "a Spike Lee Joint". How about "a Charlie Kaufman Pearl"? The screenwriter has brought us many art house pearls: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Synedoche, New York. Every time he commits words to paper, it seems as though he's able to access another level of film-making, taking an imaginative idea and extrapolating it into a haunting and mesmerising feature film.

Just when we thought he couldn't go any deeper, he's changed his medium, using the boundless format of animation where there are no limits to the power of imagination. Perhaps this is going to be a place he returns to as his pearls become more and more introspective. Anomalisa, his latest achievement, is his first exploration of animation and it probably comes as a dull surprise that he's chosen to make the emotional journey as real and down-to-earth as possible.

Anomalisa follows Michael Stone, an author who is making a presentation as part of a business trip. Arriving in the city, he's whisked to his hotel and mulls over whether or not to contact an old flame. It sounds fairly mundane, but reflects our lead's state of mind. Stone, voiced by David Thewlis, finds himself in an existential crisis and the surreal outworking of that makes this animated comedy drama comparable with The Truman Show.

The textured stop-motion animation takes some getting used to as our characters are humanoid, yet distanced by lines across their faces in order to assist with manipulating expressions. This is somewhat distracting at first, but becomes the norm and the suspense of reality sinks in as the integrity of the story and emotion take the wheel. What also becomes purposefully alienating is the fact that the voice cast consists of three with David Thewlis supported by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan.

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror..."

Kaufman's screenplay has been written as if it had been intended for a live-action film. So much so, that the animated characters operate in a state of ignorance, unaware that they're being manipulated by outer forces. This helps sell the Twilight Zone paradigm, giving everything a creepy overlay as we are slowly immersed into Stone's obscured reality. The ordinary is carefully constructed in the generic details of a four-star hotel and as if by magic, we slip into Kaufman's world.

It's the sort of reality that has so much vulnerability that it vies with live-action drama for a sense of truth. The characters are unreal, yet their deeply human emotions make them more than real. Anomalisa features nudity and some voyeuristic moments that make you, the fly-on-the-wall, almost cringe at the intimacy. The film features a sex scene that could be the most honest and down-to-earth sexual encounter committed to film.

Anomalisa is a bizarre film that's refreshing in its blinding intimacy and honesty, powered by beautiful and painstaking animation and projected through Kaufman's mind to make for a challenging, introspective and imaginative journey. If you've never been subjected to any of Kaufman's soul-searching and thought-provoking films, you may find it a bit too out there, but for those willing to take a dive into the deep end... it's a disconcerting yet memorable dream waiting to happen.

The bottom line: Surreal

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