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Eye in the Sky

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 04/01/2009
Summary: Great movie

When it come to Milkyway movies, there always seem to have some expectation that it is good, especially compared to the crop of movies coming out these day.

With good reviews i had to see this for myself and it did not disappoint.
Its a movie where things unravel slowly but each time the police get a lead you wonder where it will go next.All the actors play there roles perfectly, though i still find Wayne Lai capable for more than bit parts in movies. Kat Tsui was suprising good for her first movie role. Simon Yam and Tony Leung seem to have played these roles before and breeze through there roles.

Not a action packed movie but a slow paced and calculating movie, its worth the reward to watch this movie

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 09/25/2008
Summary: engaging......

Look closely at the crush of humanity that is Hong Kong Central and you can’t help but wonder “Who is who, anyway?”. Eye in the Sky is a smart little thriller that does an excellent job capturing, and expressing, the randomness that is everyday life. A just this side of brilliant directorial debut for longtime screenwriter Yau Nai-Hoi, who authored many of Johnnie To’s best films working under the Milkyway Image production banner. This film has high production values, solid as always performances from Simon Yam Tat-Wah and Tony Leung Ka-Fai, and an engaging production design that makes good use of the sound elements. The film was nominated for 9 Hong Kong Film Awards in 2007 including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor [Yam], Best Supporting Actress [Maggie Shaw], Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best New Artist [winner Kathy Tsui], and Best New Director [winner Yau].

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/08/2008

“Eye in the Sky” is the story of the initiation of a young policewoman (Kate Tsui Tsz-Shan) into the Surveillance Unit of the Hong Kong Police. The unit features both high and low tech police work—it uses real-time images from the ubiquitous close circuit cameras and also long, dull stakeouts waiting for something that may never happen. The field side is led by a literally grizzled veteran Capt. Wong. The target is a gang of smash-and-grab jewel thieves led by Shan, a successful criminal who meticulously plans each robbery to the second. Tony Leung Ka-Fai is magnificent as the beleaguered middle manager, facing pressure from his crew who want more money and less risk, and from his Master who is doing hard time in prison and who is being supported by the proceeds from the thefts.

There are two sets of eyes in the sky. One is controlled by the police. It is a combination of cameras, card reader intercepts and telephone bugging put together in the bunker-like unit headquarters which is watched over by the no nonsense “Yes Madam” (Maggie Shaw) and sent to the field units. The other eye belongs to Shan who perches on a rooftop overlooking the scene of the robbery and watching the crew approach from several directions. They all have specific tasks—block the street, distract the police with a call about a phony stabbing, the robbery itself—and should do them on a rigid timetable that Shan has worked out based on police response times, traffic patterns and probably phases of the moon.

This is an exciting, fast paced and credible police drama. While lacking some of the star power and technical resources of “Heat”, the collision of Simon Yam’s cop and Tony Leung’s bad guy has is as tense and shocking with as much impact as the Al Pacino and Robert De Niro behemoth but without the extraneous padding of Michael Mann’s film. “Eye in the Sky” is pure police drama, streamlined and slick, the distillation of cops and robbers that gains momentum as it develops, slowing only for one stunning scene. That scene occurs toward the end of the movie when the rookie cop with the SU code name Piggy, is helpless to intervene when Shan slaughters a uniformed PC who had the bad timing to ask for his ID card while Shan was trying to get from one side of the city to the other after a botched robbery.

The movie begins with a young woman trailing Capt. Wong. He spots her—he is a master, she still a neophyte—in a restaurant, sits at her table and asks why she has been shadowing him. This is a test—he expects to spot the tail but how the recruit acts when under pressure will determine if she has a future with the SU. She passes and is welcomed into the unit where no one uses given names—they all have the names of animals as call signs and refer to each other as such. She thinks that Snow Wolf would be a fine nickname but Capt. Wong sticks her with Piggy. The action is bookended by a scene at the end in which Piggy is trailing Shan. He has been dodging the police while leading a successful criminal enterprise for the past 18 years so when she follows him into a restaurant he notices her and sits at her table, mirroring the opening scene with Capt. Wong. Piggy demonstrates her growing experience and confidence by facing him down. She convinces him that she just happened to be at that place and at that time, and pulls it off by acting the way an attractive young woman might when approached by an older man she doesn’t know. Shan, with much more at stake than Capt. Wong had at the beginning of the movie, isn’t able to shake her story.

Kate Tsui Tsz-Shan is a former Miss Hong Kong with some experience in television. She has a distinctively attractive look. While not yet a not yet a film actor she is expressive enough for Piggy, a role mainly spent watching others. She has a face the camera simply loves.

Lam Suet is can play some of the scariest characters in Hong Kong film and does so again here. His job during the robbery is stay in reserve outside the jewelry store, keeping an eye on things. He is to shoot the first police officer to appear on the scene if the robbers are still in the store. His eyes are completely dead as he walks almost nonchalantly toward a Police Constable who arrives when the robbers spend a few seconds too long in the store. He has his hand on the butt of a pistol when the crew bursts into the street and the getaway works but we know he would have shot the constable with no more thought or feeling than he gave to buying a snack—a remorseless killer.

Tony Leung is all business and almost always under control so when, early on, he snaps it is very impressive. The crew meets on a rooftop after the first robbery, barbecuing chicken and drinking beer. When Brother Shan arrives they all stand respectfully and wait until he has served himself and is seated before they sit down. But there are complaints—when he asks why they spent more than three minutes in the store, jeopardizing the job, an argument erupts with one guy particularly unhappy. He feels that if they are going to face years in prison for armed robbery then they should just smash in with shotguns and to hell with all the planning. Someone else says that confidence men make more money for less risk but it is the first guy who is the problem. Shan solves the problem this time by grabbing the complainer and shoving him against the railing of the roof. He is bent back over the railing with Shan pressing the sharp tines of a barbecue skewer into the soft flesh of his throat. The screen fills with an extreme close-up of Leung’s face—he looks completely demented and ready to not only kill but enjoy doing it. This is both the way he actually feels but is also is simply part of the necessary repertory of the leader of a band of tough criminals. It is a wonderful performance.

Simon Yam also shines. His Capt. Wong is looks like a pushover—Yam wears a strap-on pot belly, walks with a bit of a limp and is often eating. But he is a master tactician on the streets, able to take the bits and pieces of information that are funneled to him from his own staked-out operatives plus the electronic intelligence and decide on the spot how to deploy his forces. He moves them seemingly on a whim but is always able to keep them a step ahead of the target, who remains unaware he is being followed. Capt. Wong keeps himself in the center of the action but always with the overall picture in mind.

There are a few big holes in the plot but there always are in police dramas. They are easy to ignore because the tension stays high and the action hurtles along taking the audience with it. This is a well directed, well shot and masterfully edited movie that is highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Anticlimacus
Date: 03/14/2008
Summary: The Ultimate Surveillance Movie

This is the ultimate surveillance film that revolves around the covert operations of an undercover police unit attempting to gather intelligence on a highly sophisticated crew of jewel robbers. From minute one the cloak-and-dagger shadowing begins and continues right up to the final moments. The pacing is as fast as any film in cinematic history and is assisted by fluid camerawork that keeps things moving while safely avoiding the subpar editing and shakey cam so prevalent in modern filmmaking.

The acting is solid, the score well made, and the ending very satisfying. I'm not exactly sure why the finale is so oft criticized for its unrealistic outcome. It's simply a slightly less probable event when compared with the opening 80 minutes of the film, and never descends to the point of being completely absurd or wildly improbable.

Fans of realistic, suspense-driven “tailing” sequences ala The French Connection will drool all over themselves. This is a truly awesome movie with good performances by Simon Yam and the new-comer Kate Tsui. For sheer entertainment, you can't go wrong here.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 11/26/2007
Summary: They're watching you...

Captain Wong (Simon Yam), head of a Hong Kong Police surveillance unit, takes on new recruit Ho (Kate Tsui). Their target is a gang of jewel thieves headed by Shan (Tony Leung Ka-Fai). Ho (nicknamed “Piggy” by Wong, much to her annoyance) learns the tricks of the trade perusing Shan through tailing “Fatboy” (Lam Suet), one of his thugs. Can they crack the gang before they strike again?

EYE IN THE SKY has some top-notch performances by the leads, including a paunchy Simon Yam as a fatherly mentor to the raw recruit Ho, but suffers from an under-developed script and some negligible direction. There are two distinct plot threads, following the cops and the robbers, and it often feels like the two elements don’t mesh together very well.

The surveillance tricks displayed by the team are quite good and will occasionally impress in their cleverness. The film asks some serious questions about privacy and today’s CCTV-obsessed world, and there’s one very sardonic scene when a fight between the criminal gang is broken up when one spots a woman undressing in a neighbouring apartment block. We even see, later in the movie, that the technology can cut both ways.

The supporting cast are as strong as the leads. Kate Tsui, who appears to debut here, is great and believable as the eager-to-please rookie, and we learn the Surveillance Unit’s techniques through her eyes. Also worth a mention are Maggie Shaw, who plays the tough-as-nails base controller and Lam Suet as a dim-witted goon of Shan, and the Surveillance Unit’s only link with the gang.

None of the characters are given any kind of background or depth, and this creates a detached feeling that you couldn’t really care less about them most of the time. This is the film’s main drawback, and it’s hard to create real tension under these circumstances. Nevertheless, the strong performances (especially by Yam) and a few clever tricks and turns (not to mention the now-obligatory inclusion of impossible dilemmas for the protagonists) make this a still very watchable film. It’s just unlikely you’ll want to revisit it any time soon.

One other thing (and this has nothing to do with the actual movie as such) is that the dialogue is delivered in an unusually clear and manageable pace, making it great for people learning Cantonese. It seems to have less than the usual slang, slurrings and contractions, and there’s a lot of repeated dialogue to aid memory. Furthermore, the nature of the film means we get lots of descriptions of people and what they’re wearing – all essential elementary building blocks of a language.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/31/2007

At some time or other, long-time Hong Kong movie viewers have probably seen a picture that covers almost every department in the police force. Whether it's the Special Duties Unit (SDU), Serious Crimes Unit (SCU), Organized Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB), or Emergency Unit (EU), chances are that they've been featured. Hell, it's a wonder that there's hasn't been an epic drama about meter maids.

Anyway, over the past few years, there's also a good chance that the production came from Milkyway. So it should come as no surprise that their new release, Eye in the Sky, spotlights yet another facet of the HKPD. This time, it's the Surveillance Unit, or simply SU.

The film follows a new recruit named Piggy (Kate Tsui) as she joins her faction of the SU, which is led by the veteran Dog Head (Simon Yam). Their mission is to try and track down a criminal named Fathead (Lam Suet), who holds the connection to finding a group of brash robbers led by Hollowman (Tony Leung Ka-Fai). As the SU is a clandestine operation (even fellow officers don't know who they are), Piggy must try to keep her emotions in check and not blow the unit's cover, which grows more difficult as the robbers begin attacking cops.

Fans of Milkyway productions will feel right at home here, which is not really surprising, since first-time director Yau Nai-Hoi previously worked as a writer on over two dozen Milkyway films. It has all of the earmarks of the best Milkyway films; it looks stylish, the soundtrack is very evocative, and there is plenty of quirkiness to go around. But that is perhaps Eye in the Sky's biggest problem. It does everything compentently, but doesn't go anywhere that viewers (especially if they are well-versed in HK crime pictures) haven't been before.

That's not to say that Eye in the Sky is a bad film. Well, except perhaps for the ending. One of the problems of the new wave of crime movies (and this is something not localized to HK films) is that everything is a bit too clean and slick. Hidden cameras and DNA tests have replaced the gritty detective work which highlighted many of the classics of the genre. This sort of thing, of course, in omnipresent in a movie about a group of cops that depend on stealth and trickery, and it can be forgiven to a point.

But the ending is so full of ridiculous coincidences that it left a bad taste in this reviewer's mouth. I won't spoil anything, but in a city as densely populated as Hong Kong, the fact that one particular person could be found at a particular time right after a pouring rainstorm magically disappears is more of Lifetime movie of the week fodder, rather than a serious cops-and-robbers drama. It's a shame, because for most of its' running time, Eye in the Sky is solid stuff. One would hope that with his next film, Yau Nai-Hoi can learn from some of the mis-steps he took here.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: steve_cole1
Date: 10/18/2007
Summary: Good Film

Good Film over much ground which has been covered before i havent got too many complaints about it but it wasnt extrodinary

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 09/29/2007

Very slick, stylish and engaging cops n' robbers tale iin the Milkyway style. The story is strong, the direction from first-timer Yau Nau-Hoi remarkably assured and the performances from everybody excellent.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 08/22/2007
Summary: Impressive high-tech thriller

Seeing Yau Nai Hoi's directorial debut was a treat as it's one of the best HK movies I've seen in recent times. Nothing else, aside Johnnie To's other movies, come really close in terms of innovation, uniqueness and entertainment. The main attraction of the movie, though using a clichéd plot, is how the cops and the criminals communicate with each other non-verbally and unaware of each other in order to expose each of the sides' acts and how things progress through that, and for that reason it's easy to dub the movie as a high technological movie for it's own good (some people go far as calling it Hong Kong's answer to ENEMY OF THE STATE, which is ridiculous as there aren't any huge similarities whatsoever between the movies).

As you can already tell, I'm hugely impressed but I wouldn't consider the movie flawless. A minor flaw is evident in the story and it disturbs the consistence of how it first started; which is how the whole situation suddenly changed during the second half and how the character development went along by then. Yau did a great job keeping the first half of the movie on just focusing on the cops and the criminals and maintaining it during the closing reels, all while injecting an entirely new situation that I think would've worked much better in an own story. I wasn't bothered by this the first time though but after few repeated viewings, this actually had me thinking alot. For a minute I thought what it would have been if the movie was without any of these complications and twists that we see in almost everything these days; a story simplified enough, not too complicated and just going with the flow and take the build-up where it leads to... But like I said, this is only a minor flaw or nitpick so it doesn't affect anything at all for me.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 08/14/2007
Summary: no pie...

there's a new member of the, ultra-covert, s.u. (surveillance unit), although she's not too pleased with her codename: piggy (kate tsui). she's started working in dog head's (simon yam) team and their first job is to track down a team of jewel thieves, led by hollow man (tony leung ka-fai). at the moment, their only lead is fat man (lam suet); time for some in depth surveillance...

after fourteen years of writing scripts for johnnie to and milkyway, yau nai-hoi finally decides to step into (or should that be sit in?) the director's chair, with 'eye in the sky'. the size of yau's contribution to milkyway films of yesteryear is evident; the narrative moves effortlessly, blending humour, drama and tension smoothly together. the usual subtleties are all here; characters who you seem to know as soon as they appear on screen, understated stylisation and a smattering of those little scenes which just add that little extra depth and charm - the scene with the woman at the window being a fine example...

as well as having the feel of a milkyway production, the cast is littered with the actors one would expect to see; simon yam, lam suet and tony leung, in particular. yam, with fake gut in tow, puts in another solid performance, tony leung is glacial and lam suet adds comic relief, with a menacing edge; there's also a debut for kate tsui, who does a pretty good job.

a solid debut for yau, and another classy addition to the milkyway catalogue...