Ben Oliver

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Eye in the Sky

We need to refer this up…
17 April 2016

A look at the decision process behind authorising a drone strike, from the highest levels of government to the pilot actually pulling the trigger.

Eye in the Sky begins with an ordinary recon operation supposed to lead to the capture of some terrorists. When capture is no longer an option, someone has to make the call as to whether or not to bomb the building, with a high chance of civilian casualties.

This is a modern take on the old thought experiment in philosophy - do you take one life to save that of (potentially) hundreds, or do you simply not get involved? Is inaction an action unto itself? Hood really goes deep into thinking about the various options, and doesn’t attempt to give us the answers.

Meanwhile the actual situation evolves on screen, and it’s heart-stoppingly tense all the way through. You can really feel the pressure that the ticking clock adds to the whole scenario.

Hood doesn’t stray from the timeline at all, which is a bold move but he pulls it off and keeps the audience very much engaged. This is helped by the strong cast; Helen Mirren as the military-type in a bunker running the show, Alan Rickman as the general liaising with politicians and Aaron Paul, the drone pilot. It’s impressive that what is essentially a film about people talking on the phone is so effective.

Eye in the Sky does to try to sell its story as being realistic but I have to seriously doubt this is actually how it goes down. The mission is cut and dried, so if we take option A, X will happen, if we take option B, Y will happen. The outcomes of the decisions we face in life are not always this clear.

As a pure thriller and philosophical thought experiment, this particular drone finds its target; it’s tightly wound, edgy and interesting. As a serious look into the realities of blowing people to kingdom come from an armchair in Whitehall, it’s a misfire.

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