Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky.

A drone pilot (Aaron Paul) has a missile lined up and is about to pull the trigger on a houseful of terrorists when a little girl appears within the blast zone to sell some bread.

This is just one of the dilemmas brilliantly depicted in Eye in the Sky, director Gavin Hood’s tense thriller about drone warfare and the political ramifications of collateral damage.

Helen Mirren is superb as Col. Katherine Powell, determined to take out multiple targets on Great Britain’s terrorist list, yet needing to check the legalities of all her strategies before she can make a single move. In his final live-action screen appearance, Alan Rickman is terrific as Lt. Gen. Frank Benson, drolly responding to the bureaucracy that’s keeping him from doing his job.

Paul delivers his best big-screen performance yet as Steve Watts, a drone commander torn between killing an innocent child and preventing a potential terrorist bombing. Phoebe Fox gives a breakthrough performance as Carrie Gershon, a drone co-commander.

The film poses many questions and many dilemmas, and wisely doesn’t take sides. It presents you with the frustrating situations and the consequences, and the viewer is left to mull it all over. This is one of the better-acted films so far this year.

Eye in the Sky is now playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342), the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, PalmDesert; 760-779-0430) and the Century La Quinta and XD (46800 Washington St., La Quinta; 760-771-5682).