10 May 2016 | ahassan-12342
Nail-biting drama... But the film's morality is more dubious than it recognises
Director Gavin Hood's previous film, the underrated Ender's Game, focused upon the increasingly virtual, high-tech surveillance and disengaged nature of modern warfare. These elements of Ender's Game are clearly visible in the director's latest thriller offering, Eye in the Sky. The story here involves disparate groups of military and political personnel scattered around the world, all watching the live stream of a terrorist compound in Nairobi and debating whether or not to fire a drone into a heavily-populated ethnically Somali suburb of the Kenyan capital.
The operation is shown to be a joint British and American backed mission and the debate revolves around the collateral damage a drone strike would cause. The collateral damage is given a human face through a young girl who has set up a bread stall near the compound. Eye in the Sky's original title was "Kill Chain" and the reasoning becomes evident as the rest of the film involves people referring up the chain of command to avoid making a decision. The running time consists mainly of people talking to each other on phones and via video screens, however Hood manages to make these scenes some of the tensest, most cinematic, Skype calls you will ever see.
Eye in the Sky highlights the "hawk" and "dove" nature of the politicians of the two countries involved, one memorable scene being the US Secretary of State angry that his game of table tennis is interrupted because the British are dithering. However, the film's demonstration of realpolitik was weaker and has been presented far more successfully in Armando Iannucci's In the Loop, a film based on the run-up to the Iraq War. The film also lacked any strong, coherent argument against the drone strike apart from the contrived little girl selling bread nearby; not touching at all on the long-term consequences of dropping a bomb on a Somali suburb. The film reduces the complicated morality of drone warfare to a simplistic choice: it's either this little girl or a terrorist attack in a busy shopping mall. There's no concern however for civilians nearby who aren't cute children, or that the potential civilian casualties from this attack could be used by Al Shabab to garner more support amongst the population.
Alan Rickman is fantastically dry in his last on-screen role as a British Lieutenant General and Aaron Paul is also very impressive, despite spending the majority of the film in a Portacabin with his finger hovering over the trigger. But while Eye in the Sky may be one of the year's most gripping thrillers, the film's morality is more dubious rather than ambiguous.