Thursday, April 7, 2016

Eye in the Sky: Monday, April 4 2016

Eye in the Sky is a 2015 British thriller film directed by South African, Gavin Hood, based on a screenplay by Guy Hibbert. A professional production, everything about it is of a high standard. It is entertaining as a thriller. Helen Mirren, as Colonel Katherine Powell, is her usual fabulous self. Alan Rickman is superb as Lieutenant General Frank Benson struggling against great odds. How sad that this was his last part!

The film is about military and political personnel faced with the legal, ethical and moral dilemmas presented by drone warfare. What is more important, the life of one child, or the lives of many?

A six-year hunt for a British woman convert to militant Islam, working with the Muslim organization, al-Shabaab, is nearing success, in Nairobi, Kenya. The mission suddenly changes from a Capture and Arrest to the fight against Islamic Jihadist suicide bombers. They are observed readying themselves in the same house as the hunted traitor. This is in the wake of the 2013 Nairobi shopping mall attacks in Kenya when 67 people were killed and 175 wounded.

The Americans controlling the drone that is providing surveillance of the house, are now faced with bombing the Jihadists. We see the concern on the faces of the two American soldiers when they notice a little girl within the range of the bombs. What will be the choice? To bomb, or not to bomb?

I was left feeling completely perplexed by Eye in the Sky. Although a thriller, this film seemed to be trying to convey a message.  But what message, if any, was being conveyed? Is it good that the military is so bound by legal systems, moralists and ethicists? Should we feel sympathy for the literal tears of the American soldiers? Do good soldiers actually cry?

In many ways, Eye in the Sky didn't seem quite realistic. In fact, I hope it isn't too realistic. If soldiers don't recognize that their first job is to protect people against the enemy, in spite of their feelings about collateral damage, then our civilization is in big trouble. I remembered the comments by Lt. General Benson when he made it quite clear to the tea-drinking politician that military personnel are not devoid of emotions when they perform the often dreadful tasks they are called upon to do. Was this the message?

I was appalled at what I perceived as a lack of leadership, and a lack of being prepared to accept responsibility. Even Lieutenant General Benson didn't seem strong enough to champion the military against all the buck-passing politicians. But in the end, the job did get done. Is it perhaps good that so much soul-searching goes on? Is that hesitation before pressing the button perhaps a good thing?

The person I could really identify with was Colonel Powell. She was the only one who seemed to realize the importance of stopping further damage by al-Shabaab. She wasn't bothered by ethics or any moral system when it came to fulfilling the mission. She was prepared to do what had to be done.

If politicians don't realize that the first duty of a government is to protect the country, not their own backs, we are in deep trouble. How far are we prepared to go to protect our country and way of life? If a challenge arrived on our doorstep, can we trust that there is leadership to protect us?

Eye in the Sky is thought-provoking. Is it perhaps good to have us ask these questions?

This is a film everyone ought to see.

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