Intense 'Eye in the Sky' a sleek thriller

Helen Mirren heads the cast as Col. Katherine Powell, a British military officer in charge of a top-secret drone operation to capture a pair of terrorists in Kenya.

“Eye in the Sky” is a really intense, ripped from the headlines-type thriller that is an absolute joy to watch.

With a stellar cast and impressive set sequences, this is one of the better releases in 2016.

Helen Mirren heads the cast as Col. Katherine Powell, a British military officer in charge of a top-secret drone operation to capture a pair of terrorists in Kenya.

The capture turns to an order to kill when Powell and her associates discover through remote surveillance that the targets are in the middle of planning a suicide bombing.

But even the order to kill becomes cloudy when a young girl enters the kill zone, setting off a series of back-room debates and ultimately a moral decision for an American pilot named Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), who is responsible for firing the missile from the drone.

“Eye in the Sky” put you in the middle of a war room situation and it is fascinating, with the view from surveillance video providing an interesting twist on the genre.

While most of the film basically consists of people watching the action unfold from distant rooms, director Gavin Hood’s direction does a very good job of keeping the suspense at a high level.

Mirren and Paul are both very good, as is the late Alan Rickman. It’s a bittersweet performance, one that shows just how much Rickman will be missed after his death this year.

Guy Hibbert’s screenplay is impressive, too, sparking an interesting debate about the moral repercussions of collateral damage when targeting a potential larger threat. “Eye in the Sky” doesn’t choose a side, allowing the audience to decide for themselves.

It’s good to a see a film capable of sparking conversation long after the final credits roll, something that “Eye in the Sky” succeeds at quite well.

Also in theaters

While “Eye in the Sky” makes audiences think, this week’s other new release “Meet the Blacks” (F) is absolutely brain dead.

This wanna-be comedy is void of any humor and is a lifeless attempt at satire that is more cringe-worthy than funny.

Mike Epps stars in “Meet the Blacks” as Carl Black, a hardworking Chicago family man who rips off a drug dealer (Charlie Murphy) and then promptly moves his family to Beverly Hills. The family arrives in their new home on the same day of the annual purge, where all crimes are legal for 12 hours.

This puts the family in danger, not just from the predominantly white neighborhood, but from people in Carl’s past.

“Meet the Blacks” can’t decide if it wants to be a straight-up parody of “The Purge” films or some kind of acidic satire of social class structures and perceptions.

It fails miserably at both.

The material is there if it wants to take the satire route, but the execution in “Meet the Blacks” is nowhere near up to the challenge. Instead, most of the humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator, relying heavily on crass gags and stereotypes.

Even the cast, which inexplicably includes cameos from the likes of George Lopez, Mike Tyson and Snoop Dogg, seems bored with this material. Epps also proves he is a much better sidekick than leading man with his shtick getting old really quick.

I can’t say I enjoyed a single minute of “Meet the Blacks.” In fact it was a film I struggled to sit through as I debated whether I wanted to just leave and use my time more constructively.

Ultimately, I decided to stay to see how bad the end game was. As I left the theater I came to one conclusion – it may only be April, but I am fairly certain that “Meet the Blacks” has already locked up the title of worst film of 2016 (at least I hope so).

“Meet the Blacks” is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual material, violence and drug use and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10.

— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all movies, visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter @mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com