Eye in the Sky Presents a Grim Image of Drone Warfare

Eye in the Sky

The true cost of war
The true cost of war | Source


Eye in the Sky:R (1 h. 42 min.)

Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam

Directed by: Gavin Hood

The Face of War

Practically every day here in America we hear about the drone war that this country is involved in over in the Middle-East and Northern Africa. We hear about Friendly Fire incidents and cases where a drone killed civilians, rather than (or in addition to) their intended targets. We also hear politicians talk about how they want to carpet bomb our enemies into submission, killing them, their families, their friends, and their villages. And then we hear people cheer for these leaders. This is a film that puts a face on the innocent civilians who get caught in the horrific crossfire of war.

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control
Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

Drone Warfare is the first comprehensive analysis of one of the fastest growing—and most secretive—fronts in global conflict: the rise of robot warfare. In 2000, the Pentagon had fewer than fifty aerial drones; ten years later, it had a fleet of nearly 7,500, and the US Air Force now trains more drone “pilots” than bomber and fighter pilots combined. Drones are already a $5 billion business in the US alone. The human cost? Drone strikes have killed more than 200 children alone in Pakistan and Yemen.


The Humanity of it All

It is not a pretty, or an easy film to watch, but it is one that we — as citizens of an aggressor nation — must watch.

Eye in the Sky: Trailer

The Backstory

Told in real time, we follow British Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation that has been tasked with capturing terrorists in Kenya. She and her team (consisting of British and U.S. military personnel as well as Kenyan civilians on the ground), track terror suspects through remote surveillance (eye in the sky, drones) as well as on-the-ground intel. As Powell’s team closes in on an expatriated British subject, Susan Danford (Lex King), who met and was radicalized by a Muslim she married they discover that the woman and her husband are now prepping a pair of martyrs for a suicide bombing. Unfortunately, the house where they are holed up is a secure zone that is being guarded by militia.

The Complexities of War

Suddenly the capture mission escalates to a kill scenario, and the Colonel — who had been tracking Danford for the past six years and really wants to capture her, however, due to the presence of explosives, suicide vests, and a pair of willing martyrs in the house, she upgrades the mission to dropping a bomb on the building from the predator drone (just to be sure). Now, if she can only get all of the politicians, lawyers, and military personnel on board, she can fulfil her mission. Then, just as she finally gets everyone on board, and the U.S. pilot, Steve Watts (Paul) is about to engage, and launch his Hellfire missile, a nine-year old Kenyan girl enters the kill zone, and sets up at a stand, selling bread. Suddenly the mission has gone off the rails, triggering what could become an international incident as an internal dispute arises within the group monitoring the live event. As each person in the command chain tossed this so-hot-it-is radioactive hot potato to someone else on which to hang the blame should everything go south. The tension ratchets up exponentially as the Col. Desperately (desperately) attempts to move the ball forward so as to hit her target and eliminate — what she perceives to be — a very real threat to global security.

The Drone's Pilot

The drone's pilot weighs in on the kill.
The drone's pilot weighs in on the kill. | Source

How War Affects Us All

The ripple effect of the escalating conversation ebbs and flows around the principle players as it reaching up to the highest levels of both the U.S. and British governments over the moral, ethical, political, military, legal, and personal implications of modern warfare. The arguments encompass which will be less damaging to the people involved; that they accidently killed a single child or that the terrorist cell kills 80 innocent civilians. They talk about “coverage” and responsibility. They debate just who precisely has the authority to authorize the strike, and how they will be perceived once everything happens (if it happens well, if it happens bad).

The General in Charge

Even a general has to answer to someone.
Even a general has to answer to someone. | Source

How the Horror Spreads

The film plays out in (essentially) real time so once the Eye in the Sky positively IDs the terrorists and the countdown is live, the tension and suspense mount with each passing moment so that by the end of the film you are (quite literally) fidgeting in your seat as the film approaches its critical closing moments, and it isn’t quite clear how the actions of the film’s protagonists will cause things to turn out. As stated at the onset, we as a nation always seem quick to go to war, and bomb some other country. Perhaps by putting a face on the victims of war, we will begin to realize that the cost is ultimately always too high, and we will finally arrive at the same place as did Sci-Fi Grandmaster, Isaac Asimov, when he told us all that “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

Everyone Watches

Barkhad Abdi stars as a on-the-ground operative
Barkhad Abdi stars as a on-the-ground operative | Source

Eye in the Sky featurette with Helen Mirren

Post Script

This is actor Alan Rickman’s final film.

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