REVIEW: Eye in the Sky

20 04 2016

Eye in the SkyMore than a mere morality play, Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky” displays an impeccable representation of how we fight now, particularly in the later years of the Obama administration. The film goes farther than the largely character-based drama of Andrew Niccol’s 2015 drone-related flick “Good Kill,” demonstrating both the individual and the collective effects of conducting warfare on a screen in a remote room.

“Eye in the Sky” mostly depicts a single mission conducted as a collaboration between the United States, United Kingdom and Kenya. Together, their militaries scope out Al-Shabaab terrorists from an unmanned aircraft flying high above the ground. From this vantage point, they scope out a large quantity of explosives getting ready to leave a safe house – attached to the chest of a suicide bomber.

The decision to strike seems like a no-brainer to British Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren). Even though they started tracking a citizen-turned-extremists for the purpose of capture, the clearly observed threat raises the stakes. Her position far from the battlefield would seem to make her, as well as her superiors, more likely to make the informed and rational decision. Yet with all the details they can observe, they also see their potential collateral damage up close and personal: a young girl, unrelated to the terrorists, sent out to sell bread in the streets.

Rather than take swift action, everyone now tries to kick the can up the road to their supervisor or boss. No one wants to be the last voice or the final finger on the trigger with a child likely to die as a result. In scenes of rapid succession that resemble a one-act play more than a film, Guy Hibbert’s script depicts a kind of bureaucratic nightmare unfolding in real time. Eventually, “Eye in the Sky” takes on the tenor of “Dr. Strangelove“-esque farce.

Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky

While the diplomacy between countries permits a more collaborative effort in taking down terrorism, it also allows for the tail to wag the dog thanks to a chain of command that encourages individuals to avoid responsibility. Heck, it even gives them a chance to mull political spin over practicalities. “Eye in the Sky” goes light on the action and packs on the process – and that’s precisely the point. By removing soldiers from the war and supposedly removing heated emotions along with them, the ability to make the smart, utilitarian decision should be easier than ever. This fictional test case argues otherwise.

What that means for how to think about drone warfare is up to each individual. But all those who believe they have a role as a global citizen ought to mull over what “Eye in the Sky” has to say. B+3stars

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2 responses

21 04 2016
Dan O.

It doesn’t just ask all the right questions, but gives us a story that’s tense, exciting and unpredictable. Nice review Marshall.

21 04 2016
Matt

I was so impressed with this movie when I saw it at TIFF back in September. The discussion period with Gavin Hood was really interesting but not quite as interesting as the discussion period the Assholes had at a Toronto bar after the screening. It’s a movie that really gets you talking.m

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