Eye In The Sky


Leonard Zwelling

         If you can imagine Helen Mirren as a British Army colonel in
charge of tracking down and eliminating terrorists using American drone
capability, you have suspended sufficient disbelief to enjoy this excellent
feature film and the first of this year worth seeing.

         It appears to be a movie about the new war and the ethics of
killing at a distance, from Great Britain, and Las Vegas and from remote
locales around the world where members of the various governments find themselves
at the moment a decision to launch or not to launch a drone strike is needed.
It’s not. It’s about decision-making and leadership.

         Mirren’s character has been tracking a group of high value
targets and has them all in a room ready to execute a execution-style bombing mission.
(Don’t worry about how she knows; you were supposed to be suspending disbelief,

         She is in England. Her commanding general played by Alan
Rickman in his last role before his untimely death, is in a another room in
England with the highest ranking members of the British government overseeing
the wisdom and legality of drone warfare. In Las Vegas, Nevada, the controllers
of the drone over Nairobi, Kenya sit in a dark room, thousands of miles from
their target 22,000 feet above the safe house harboring the terrorists. Like
all such warfare, it entails risks and calculations of collateral damage as the
target is in an urban area of a friendly country and two of the targets are radicalized
British citizens and one is an American. What to do?

         But that’s not the issue. The issue is who will decide once
the military are armed and dangerous when and how to unloose them? It is a
lesson in buck passing, CYA, and true leadership to watch the decisions roll
out around the world on a tight time line where lives are on the line as are
political culpability and relations with the rest of the world. Decisions are
kicked up and down the chain of command with all but the soldiers afraid to do
anything. Is some collateral damage worth stopping a potential lethal bombing
before it can occur and who decides? What are the feelings of those pulling the
trigger from thousands of miles away? This is all played out on video screens
in a manner that does not strain credulity at all given the power of computers
and digital cameras.

         This is an exciting, well-acted, well-written (Guy Hibbert)
and well-directed (Gavin Hood) movie that is a real lesson in how critical,
time-sensitive decisions must be made in this robo-war in which we are engaged
with Islamic terrorists, some of whom are our own countrymen.

         Don’t miss this film and consider what you would do if you
were each or any of the characters, because while the stakes may not be as high
in your life, the decisions you make may not be any more ethically clear or
simple than the ones these characters must make in a small attempt to keep the
world safer by destroying a small piece of it.

Leonard Zwelling