Drones, at one point in time, were things created by science fiction writers to move the plot along in a book. Now, in today’s society, hearing about their use by the military does not rate top slots on the evening news.
Director Gavin Hood’s latest film “Eye in the Sky” does not explore the political use of drones by the military, but the humanity that is lost and the lives impacted. The film explores this issue from several points of view, from the military leaders working at command and control centers, to government officials who have to authorize the action, to military drone pilots who are pushing the button on the orders they receive from their chain of command. Hood leaves the politics out of this film by simply letting these individuals tell their story. He then invites the audience into the huddle as silent observers to watch as the events unfold.
“Eye in the Sky” tells the story of a joint operation involving the British, United States and Kenyan militaries. Intelligence tracked the whereabouts of several terrorists to a house in Kenya. The plan originally called for a capture operation, but when the terrorists travel to another location, that option is no longer viable. The only option left is to fire a missile from a drone to prevent another bombing from happening. Just as the missile strike is about happen, a little girl walks into the kill zone to sell bread on the street next to the house.
The film weighs heavily on the heart, but gives the audience a lot to think about. Throughout the film's 102 minutes, the one question that came up time and time again is, does the needs of the one out weigh the needs of the many? That question is simply one that I would not want to be responsible for answering. It’s tough to come up with a response. How do you value human life in a short time frame like that?
One of the most poignant scenes explores this when Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), who is the drone pilot, sees the girl walking into the frame just as he is about to fire. He tells his commanders that options need to be explored to safe guard her life and others around her. Watts’ remarks to his commander,“I’m the pilot in command responsible for releasing the weapon and I will fire when this girl is out of the way.”
Paul shows audiences the difficult choices that faces members of the military they have to make, whether they are in a battlefield half way around the world or in a virtual battle space close to home. The choices are still very real and the burden some individuals carry is difficult. Paul shows this difficulty as his voice starts to crack and a tear runs down his cheek. While his role in the film is small, it is memorable.
Now, in war collateral, damage does happen and sometimes it can’t be avoided. The film shows that sometimes decisions need to made quickly and they can’t be legislated by a committee. Alan Rickman plays Lt. Gen. Frank Benson. He tells a member of the British Parliament, “You don’t tell a solider what the cost of war is. He already knows.” With that statement, Benson’s humanity is shown. While one death could not be avoided, the lives of many others were saved by making the choice to act. However, humanity still needs to be factored into each decision we make not just on the battlefield.
Rickman provides a performance that commands the attention of the audience from beginning to end. The film provides little time to develop each character’s background, but this is not a problem for Rickman. He uses this small window to his advantage to provide the audience the complete picture of the person he is portraying, showing both the solider and the man. This is the last on-screen role that Rickman starred in before his death in January and is a testament to his ability. His presence will be missed.
“Eye in the Sky” presents a lot of difficult questions, but they are questions that need to be asked. It also shares several elements with the 1964 film “Fail Safe,” starring Henry Fonda, that shows sometimes when two choices present themselves, the lesser option has to be taken.
“Eye in the Sky” is a limited release film. It is currently only playing at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas, but it is worth the drive. Go see this film. This film is rated R for some violent images and language. The Angelika Film Center is located at 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas.
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