Monday, November 07, 2016
Movie Monday: Eye in the Sky
Wow. Just wow. This is an emotionally powerful movie with far-reaching, complicated moral implications that you won't soon forget. This is about war in its new, futuristic form, with armed drones, where the people controlling them are often many thousands of miles away. The military personnel are nowhere near the site they are targeting nor near each other. In this case, the target is the top leaders of a major terrorist group, whom intelligence has revealed are meeting in a home in Kenya today.
Helen Mirren stars as a military commander in the British armed services, Colonel Katherine Powell. The late Alan Rickman, in his last role, is Powell's superior, Lieutenant General Frank Benson, who is sitting in a conference room in London, along with other high-level government officials, watching the operation unfold on video. Across the ocean, in Las Vegas, American drone pilot Steve Watts, played by Aaron Paul, and his partner are awaiting instructions. Another local Kenyan military team is near the site where the terrorists are, hiding undercover in a beat-up old van and handling close-up surveillance.
The operation begins as a capture mission but changes to a kill mission when certain facts are uncovered by surveillance about the terrorists in the house. The military personnel - on three different continents - confer with each other through audio and video feeds, and, as this is a British-led mission, every change to the operation must go up the chain of command in the UK before it is approved. It's a fascinating process to watch.
Unfortunately, there is the potential for civilian casualties. That seems like such a euphemistic way to put it after watching the movie! There is a happy Kenyan family, the Mo'Alim family, who lives around the corner from the house where the terrorists are meeting. They are poor but making ends meet: Mom and Ed work hard and love their beautiful little daughter, Fatima. Fatima is an ebullient child who loves to dance and play with the hula hoop her father made her. Every day, she puts on a head scarf and takes a basket filled with loaves of bread that her mother baked and sets them on a table near the street to sell them. You guessed it - her table of bread is right in front of the terrorists' house.
We watch as the group of military and government officials tries to decide what to do. It might seem obvious to wait until the little girl has left the scene, but it's not that simple. Many more hundreds of people will die - today - if these terrorists are allowed to leave the house. It is an impossible decision that requires a fast resolution.
Eye in the Sky is a suspenseful movie that illuminates this new world of remote warfare. You would think that unmanned drones that can kill terrorists from the sky would make things simple and clean, but this film shows that it is anything but. It brings these impossible moral and ethical questions to the forefront and educates viewers about the real-life tolls of such remote actions, where those carrying out the action are in no danger themselves. In fact, the movie opens with each of the main characters waking up in their comfortable homes to a perfectly normal day. It's a twisty, tense story that had me yelling at the TV, though not sure what the right decision was. This is one of the most powerful movies I've seen in a long time...and one of the most important, too. Everyone living in our modern world should watch this. It will stick with you for a long time.
Eye in the Sky is currently available on DVD, at Redbox, and free for streaming on Amazon Prime (link below).