Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky: Debating the Cost of War

What a coup! Publicist Peggy Siegal exulted in the day's headlines: drones taking down 150 al-Shabab inductees in Africa. The occasion was a luncheon at la Grenouille to celebrate the movie Eye in the Sky. Directed by Gavin Hood and starring Helen Mirren, with Alan Rickman in his last performance for the screen, this nail-biting drama, a behind the scenes look at what it takes to fight terrorism could not be more relevant, and Siegal feigned taking credit for planting the story to support the film opening this week. Mirren plays Colonel Powell, who displays the remarkable cool and determination necessary in the decision making process. Do we proceed, and bomb three wanted terrorists and two men wearing suicide vests, when there is possible collateral damage in the person of a single little girl selling bread nearby, or do we risk the possibility of the martyrs killing dozens in a marketplace or other densely populated location just to save the girl? The movie teeters on this narrow edge. Alan Rickman delivers a key line: "Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war."

The lunch crowd included Julie Taymor whose play Grounded, a one-woman tour de force starring Anne Hathaway at the Public Theater last year, dealt with this dire question in another way, limning the decision making of women, thought too soft under these circumstances. In truth, Hood, Taymor and Mirren concurred, women are quick to make these time sensitive life and death choices. They have to be. After the lunch, Gavin Hood and Julie Taymor swapped notes. "You must read the latest, a study called Drone Theory," Hood offered, and the two filmmakers chatted heatedly as others left the room.

The next night, at the premiere after party at Parkview Lounge, we caught up with Barkhad Abdi. You remember this Somalian refugee and Oscar nominee from the movie Captain Phillips. His role is crucial to the on the ground efforts in Eye in the Sky's Kenya, shot in South Africa. While the decisions to kill are made thousands of miles away, accomplished with the press of a remote, after legal clearance and P.R. priorities are met, his single effort to buy up the girl's bread brings the "fog of war" to the level of the human.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.