Eye in the Sky Review
Caught this during the still ongoing Hong Kong International Film Festival, and first time director Yau Nai-Hoi's Eye in the Sky gets the two thumbs up from me. It's an excellent movie with a strong storyline that gets zoned into the moment, with no room spent on unnecessarily bloating the movie beyond what it should be. Director Yau, a frequent collaborator and scriptwriter for Johnny To classics, brings to Eye in the Sky, a taut 90 minutes cop-robbers story on surveillance, of the men and women who do the thankless anonymous tasks behind the scenes on following suspects and trawling the streets for them.
Surveillance is never easy, and trust me I know, from work experience. While there are countless of CCTV cameras and various technologies, nothing beats having up to date field intelligence. The opening film of the HKIFF, I had hoped to have watched this on its first screening, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I had one week to trawl the streets of Hong Kong and Kowloon, and being able to identify the locales used, was an added thrill.
Although this is a cop thriller, it doesn't have the usual car chases, explosions or fancy gun battles. It's quite muted in these aspects, however it brings about a refreshing realism to the story, a great departure from the days when action has to be stylized (flying through the air shooting two guns anyone?) The way the surveillance team operate, with its arsenal of disguises, tricks and vehicles, and the skills that one must possess - keen observation, alertness and an elephant memory, makes it like a cross between The Recruit and Mission: Impossible.
Eye in the Sky tells the story of a new recruit, nicknamed Piggy (Kate Tsui) by her mentor Dog-Head (Simon Yam), as she undergoes an on-job training of sorts in their case to track down some armed heist robbers, led by "Hollow Man" (Tony Leung Kar Fai). It becomes a tight cat and mouse game as identities are attempted to be established, and the team comes up against a villain who's truly aware of his environment, turning the tables as the hunter might become the prey.
There are strong performances all round, led by the veterans Simon Yam, in a change of alignment given his outings last year as villains, and Tony Leung, as a chillingly observant, cool and methodical sudoku-playing mastermind, who brought about the flip side of surveillance - of criminals studying and casing their targets. In her first movie role, I thought Kate Tsui did remarkably well in her role as Piggy, the newbie lacking field experience, yet being thrown in the deep end of the pool to sink or swim. Perhaps it is truly her being new to the scene, that eased her comfortably into a role which is similar to herself, but the story does allow her room to showcase some of her acting chops, and she holds her own well against the veterans. Maggie Siu too added some comedic moments as a foul mouthed police madam.
Eye in the Sky is a recommended Hong Kong cop thriller (time to let go of mole stories) which is tight, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you follow the surveillance team through high angles (akin to CCTV camera angles), tight teamwork and features an incredible soundtrack as well to keep it fast paced.