“Eye In The Sky” is a thought-provoking, and intensely cerebral and affecting film about the ethics and personal implications of drone warfare. South African Gavin Hood directs and plays a minor part (Colonel Ed Walsh) in British screenwriter Guy Hibbert’s anti-terrorism genre-piece.
For those who think that drone warfare is the least of all evils because the targets are known and the collateral damage can be effectively surmised, prepare yourself. There are no easy answers. For those who liken the unmanned kills to devil-may-care video gaming, be ready to have this argument squelched. Public transparency is the biggest theme here, right after the moral debate of what is ethical versus what is effective.
Helen Mirren plays the narrowly-focused, get-the job- done Colonel Katherine Powell. Her name evokes “pow” and “too much power” at the same time. Much like this film, the viewer is left to decide how heinous her data machinations are. Is she practical, a decision maker par excellence or a believer who will cancel every check set in place to reach her goal. Think of the German car maker overriding environmental regulations to better profits, but on a life and death scale. The pressure she puts on her underlings is one of the most frightful scenes in this film. Mirren’s face never changes from its single-purposed rigidity. Her “Do you understand me? ” is rife with one used to ordering the world. Aeschylus’ moral statement, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” could be this film’s thematic statement.
The settings are beautifully handled in “Eye In The Sky”, and we are made aware of the war on terror’ s international complexity in juxtaposition with the normality of daily life. In Nairobi, Kenya, a father fashions a hoopla hoop for his daughter; in Surrey, England, a grandfather purchases the wrong babydoll; in Los Vegas,Nevada, the lives of two recruits will change forever. Knowing that they have the right to ask for stats on collateral damage was new to me. And what does this say about excuses like ” I was just following orders.” ?
Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox play these recruits, Steve and Carrie. Their moist eyes and their cascade of tears as they rain “hell fire” completes the code-named “Egret” mission. They are psychologically scarred for life. Who would not be when an innocent young girl is killed as collateral damage ! What is killing number four and number five on the world’s “most wanted list” worth? “Eye In The Sky” doesn’t tell us any more than the satellite feed.
The young victim ‘s father has earlier told her, “These people are fanatics; Don’t play in front of them.” He is speaking of Somali terrorists, yet all the briefing-room image analyses, legal clearances, and ultimate strike proves even more dire in eliminating her. Does drone warfare do more harm than good may be the utimate question. “Do we have permission to proceed ?” and “Has there ever been a drone attack on a friendly country when we are not at war ?” are questions for the Prime Minister. There is lots at stake, and this film’s tension is high.
Enjoy the irony of a dead battery on the sophisticated beetle drone, the food -poison -suffering of a Head of State, and the problem-solving of a Kenyan operative. You won’t enjoy how easily the U.S. Attorney General sacrifices an American citizen’s life. Wild West culpability is hinted at. No moral dilemma here.
My favorite lines: “The beetle sees lots of people we don’t like” and “laws are to protect you, not to get in your way”, “Can someone else buy the bread?”, ” Revolutions are fueled by U-tube” ,and finally, “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.” See to enjoy a fine script.