Eye in the Sky (2015)

Cast includes: Helen Mirren (The Queen), Alan Rickman (Harry Potter (series)), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Monica Dolan (Never Let Me Go), Jeremy Northam (Gosford Park), Richard McCabe (Cinderella)
Director: Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game, Tsotsi)
Genre: Drama | Thriller (102 minutes)

Huffington Post

Nairobi… “Best ever” the drone camera confirms… Surry, England… Colonel Katherine Powell has been following another situation since the Westgate bombing two years ago. Northwood HQ… time to focus on the woman… is she or isn’t she Susan Danford (aka Ayesha Al-Hadi)? Danford is a British citizen, but these days she and her jihadi husband are high on the East Africa target list. If Powell now has them in her sites, it’ll make these last two years of surveillance worthwhile. Powell orders the bird camera to get a closer look, but the windows are blocked. The surveillance from the drone is remarkable, as long as the view isn’t blocked. We can see details of the whole neighborhood… like the little girl, Alia, and her family. In this community patrolled by jihadists, Alia’s family struggles to maintain the appearance of blending in… but behind their gate, Alia gets to enjoy being a normal little girl. That hula-hoop is definitely not jihadi-approved.

General Frank Benson can’t decide if the Baby Moves doll is the one he’s suppose to buy… or will his sergeant have to go back and exchange it? If only this were his most important decision of the day. The potential Danford sighting is bringing everything to a head. In the Nevada desert, Steve Watts is the dedicated “eye in the sky,” manning his drone from inside a dark, surreal, high-tech trailer. As good as these images are, Powell needs to see inside that house. What about Jama, their man in Nairobi? It means taking a big risk, but Jama is smart… he buys the clothes off the back of a street vendor and manages to get close enough for the beetle… a little camera in a mechanical beetle. In through a window, Jama controls the beetle from a video game interface. These images are indeed revealing. Face recognition in Hawaii confirms Danford, plus #4 and #5 on the East Africa target list. The Northman team reminds Powell this is a capture mission… not a kill mission. But there’s something else… two suicide bombers preparing for a mission. “This is a game changer.” Capture is now out of the question… Powell needs clearance for a kill mission. What does she get? “Refer up… refer up… refer up.”

Eyes all over the globe are focused on this one house in this one specific Nairobi neighborhood. We learn about hellfire missiles, drones and rings of CDEs (collateral damage estimates). We learn how every little change on the ground changes the calculations. Are they meeting the legal requirements? Do they have clearance? What about the moral issue? We noticed early on the little girl, just outside the CDE ring... until she goes outside to sell the bread her mother bakes. She sets up shop directly in front of the most watched house in East Africa. Eye in the Sky may be a war movie, but it is not an action movie. It’s like a courtroom drama, putting us into the middle of complex calculations. When collateral damage is about body counts, it’s bad enough. But when we see flesh-and-blood people in the target zone… that changes things. Is there a moral high ground? Eye in the Sky is an excellent film with a first-rate cast that takes on an important issue and makes us want to think about what we’d do. One of the easiest things for most of us agree on is that we’re glad these decisions aren’t ours to make. “Refer up.”

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

Drone warfare… complex calculations and moral issues

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R (Violence)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release 
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism 
Nutshell: Drone war
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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