Eye in the Sky
Drone warfare is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the modern world. There are many arguments for and against it. Recently there have been attempts in Hollywood to present these arguments to audiences, but there hasn’t been much success (take last year’s Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke). However, Gavin O’Connor’s latest film: Eye in the Sky, not only explores the arguments for and against drone warfare, but also the moral dilemmas that governments and soldiers face.
Eye in the Sky is a day in the life of various military personnel. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) of the British military has been watching and tracking three wanted terrorists for some time, and now she finally has them all grouped on one location in Nairobi, Kenya. Powell is working with the American government who has agreed to let her use their drones for he operation. The drone pilot she employs is Steve Watts (Aaron Paul). The film looks at the incredible amount or red tape that Powell has to go through in order to launch a drone strike in a peaceful and allied country. She has to refer to a British general many times (played by the late Alan Rickman), and the authorizations have to bounce so many ways before someone is brave enough to make a decision. The big dilemma in this particular drone strike is that there is a small girl selling bread that is in the blast site. Should the drone strike wait and risk the terrorists scattering? Or should they strike the terrorists while they can?
What is so fascinating about the film is that it has you supporting both sides of the argument at multiple points throughout the movie. Director O’Connor might get a bit muddled up with all the technical terms, but in the end the audience is able to submerge themselves into this emerging world of warfare. But if anything must be highlighted about the film, it’s the incredible calculated tension that has the audience on the edge of their seat. What surprised me most was that O’Connor was able to carry the tension from the first few seconds of the film to the last, a true hitchcockian feat.
And then we have a truly remarkable cast ranging from veterans like Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman, to relative newcomers like Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi (in only his second film). The actors relish in the tension, and work great as a team, not wanting to hog the spotlight individually. Aaron Paul also gives a good performance as the conflicted drone pilot, but in his first few scenes it’s a bit hard to buy him as a straight and clean soldier, his reputation of playing loose cannons unfortunately seems to be chasing him a bit.
In the end the film is a true nail-biter. The moral dilemma that it presents will have your head buzzing on what was right and what was necessary. And before you go ahead and criticize the military and the soldiers who kill from miles away, as Alan Rickman says in the film “Do not tell a soldier that they do not understand the costs of war.”
Rest in Peace Snape.