If you’re looking for two well-acted, fairly gripping entertainments this weekend, it would be hard to go wrong with Eye in the Sky and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Directed by Gavin Hood with a script by Guy Hibbert, Eye in the Sky takes on the question “what price victory?”—especially in terms of possible collateral damage. In this case, a number of wanted terrorists are located in a South African compound, loaded up for what appears to be imminent suicide bombings, and Helen Mirren’s Colonel is ready to launch a missile strike—until an innocent young girl is seen setting up to sell some bread right in front of the compound (there is no doubt about the innocence of this girl—unlike the dilemma faced by Bradley Cooper’s marksman in American Sniper). Pilot Aaron Paul refuses to carry out the attack—until both legal and moral obligations are met (namely, can the girl be removed from the area or can the possibility of her demise be reduced).
The negotiations between the military and the various politicos (some who are interested in self-preservation, while others are troubled by the ramifications of the possible bloodshed) are well-developed and laced with some dark humor (courtesy mainly of Alan Rickman in one of his last roles, as a concerned, pragmatic general). Juxtaposed with these remote dealings are the efforts of Barkhad Ali (from Captain Philips) as an undercover operative who is entrusted with both securing the identities of those in the compound, and doing all he can to get the girl out of harm’s way. There are many tense, suspenseful moments enroute to its resolution, as well as a number of trenchant scenes in which intelligent, reasonable characters try to come to terms with the inevitable costs of war. The moviemakers leave with you an indication of where their sympathies lie, but you may come away with your own. Worth checking out when it comes to your area.
10 Cloverfield Lane poses an interesting question: in the event of a possible world-ending attack (by parties unknown), would you rather stay in an underground bunker with John Goodman—or take your chances on the outside? The genius of 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it keeps you on edge throughout, as to both developments in the outside world, and Goodman’s motives—and it also offers a lead female character (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is nothing if not consistently resourceful—no shrieking scream queen she!).
The premise is that Winstead is driving through Louisiana after leaving her fiancé; she hears of blackouts in major cities and soon gets into a major accident. When she awakens, she finds herself chained to a bed and “tended to” by the solicitous but stern Goodman, who explains that there has been an attack, probably involving poisonous gas or radiation—with the likelihood that there are no survivors. Her only chance, as Goodman puts it, is to remain in the bunker (complete with generator, air filtration, food, and plenty of videos). There is also a third occupant (John Gallagher Jr.) who corroborates Goddman’s explanation, and….
I don’t want to reveal anything else—it’s better that you go in knowing as little as possible. Suffice it to say, that writers Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle, as well as director Dan Trachtenburg, deliver a nailbiting drama that doesn’t stint on the twists or the thrills—while leaving room for some good actors to make their mark. Winstead and Gallagher make for sympathetic, believable protagonists, but the film belongs to Goodman. In a rare recent lead role, Goodman uses melancholy, menace, and occasional mirth to create a memorable characterization. I won’t say any more—go and see him.