Eye in the Sky - Drone Warfare is Complicated, Okay?

Marter | 1 Apr 2016 12:00
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Directed by Gavin Hood. Produced by Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, and David Lancaster. Written by Guy Hibbert. Release date: March 11, 2016.

While we've seen a lot of movies about modern warfare, only a few have really delved into drone strikes. I would put money on the number of theatrical films dealing with this issue being less than five. And that's a little odd considering how many drone strikes take place every year, and how complicated an issue it is to talk about. But, then, maybe movies aren't the place to have that discussion. Eye in the Sky is a film that attempts - and in large degrees succeeds - in bringing various viewpoints into the conversation about drone strikes.

The story follows a bunch of people in rooms around the world who have to decide whether or not to execute a drone strike. The biggest proponent is Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), who has spent six years tracking a terrorist, and now has several in one location - as well suicide bombing jackets, which are going to be equipped and detonated in a very short amount of time. On her side is Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), who is the liaison between her and several political figures. The drone pilots are 2nd Lieutenant Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Carrie Gerson (Phoebe Fox). There are also lawyers, and a man on the ground (Barkhad Abdi), involved in this process.

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So, why is there a debate at all? Well, beyond the obvious "should drones be used at all" question, within the projected collateral damage zone is a child. So, the question becomes: Is putting an innocent child at risk of death worth shooting off the drone strike? We hear from all sides: political, moral, and legal. Meanwhile, suicide vests get strapped to terrorists. It's a very time-sensitive issue, and Eye in the Sky contains more than a couple of thrilling moments because of this.

Beyond its ethical and moral questions, Eye in the Sky also brings in criticism of the bureaucratic, up-the-ladder, approach to decision-making. More than once, people in power pass the baton to those higher up on the chain of command - not because they don't have the authority, but because they don't want to face any potential repercussions of a decision. Not only is this portrayed as ludicrous, it's also potentially deadly; due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue, not making a decision could result in dozens of lost lives.

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