Eye in the Sky Parent Review
Solid performances and a taut script kept me on the edge of my seat as the movie worked toward an uncertain conclusion.
The high technologies of war are upon us and Eye in the Sky opens our eyes to the moral and ethical dilemmas of joystick assaults. In this case, a US operated drone hovers thousands of feet above a Kenyan shantytown. With a precision zoom lens pointed at a house, British military Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is convinced she has pinpointed the location of three people on the UK and US most wanted terrorists list (one of whom is played by Lex King). In a global collaborative effort Airman First Class Lucy Galvez (Kim Engelbrecht) located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, measures facial features from the drone’s camera and confirms the identities. This verification solidifies Powell’s determination to eliminate the targets. Figuring a catch like this should be a clear decision to “shoot-to-kill”, she’s frustrated when her request for permission from British Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) is met with delays.
Benson’s initial hesitation is based on the fact that two of the targets are British citizens, while the third is a US passport holder. A call to the US Secretary of State (Michael O’Keefe), who is visiting China, returns an immediate response: The American citizen is obviously a danger to the homeland so there is no question the termination is justified. Even more persuasive is the discovery, through the use of a tiny insect-like camera deftly controlled by an undercover Kenyan operative (Barkhad Abdi), that one of the men is suiting up in an explosives vest and preparing for a suicide bomb attack. With the “go” signal, a calculation of estimated collateral damage is made and it’s determined there is little chance of loss of innocent lives in the surrounding, densely populated neighborhood. That is until a young girl, oblivious to what’s happening, appears and sets up a stand to sell bread just outside the terrorist’s fence.
At this point Powell orders the US drone pilot, located on an air force base in Las Vegas, Nevada, to pull the trigger. But Lieutenant Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) reads the rules of engagement back to Powell, and exercises his right to demand a new collateral damage report be generated that takes the girl’s location into account. Not surprisingly odds are good she may die, or at the very least be severely injured. This leaves a frustrated Powell with no other option but to work her way up the chain of command which results in a massive ethical debate. The question posed: Should one innocent life be taken to prevent the likely loss of many more in a suicide bombing?
This is a dialogue heavy film that pulls audiences into the moral issues of real world threats and examines our desire to avoid putting “boots on the ground.” It depicts an increasing reliance on unmanned aircraft and sophisticated surveillance equipment (some of which are still fictional) that are monitored and controlled by people far detached from the actual threat. The exceptions in this story are the Kenyan operatives who, somewhat like the robotic drones, are puppets asked to risk their lives after receiving orders in a text message.
Solid performances and a taut script kept me on the edge of my seat as the movie worked toward an uncertain conclusion. All I’ll say is this British film doesn’t necessarily adhere to American filmmaking constructs. Yes, the terrorists are the “bad guys”, but values and principles are the real combatants as the script tackles classical ethics (like consequentialism and negative responsibility) and teeter-totters between choosing or neglecting the good of the one in favor of the good of the many. While the military wants the deed done now, other voices see the slaughter of an innocent child as unforgiveable—and the public relations consequences as a nightmare. These two points of view are carefully balanced throughout.
Parents and/or teachers considering sharing this fine movie with teens should be aware of brief grotesque images of corpses and scenes of injured people with blood effects. Infrequent profanities include at least five uses of a sexual expletive (the likely reason for the MPAA’s R-rating in the US) and a few Christian religious expletives. However, Eye in the Sky offers a unique perspective that could lead to some important discussions between older adolescents and adults.Directed by Gavin Hood. Starring Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren . Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release March 11, 2016. Updated June 27, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Eye in the Sky here.
Eye in the Sky Parents Guide
There are many questions raised in this movie. What decision would you have made if you were the commander in charge of this operation? What advantages would there be if military personnel were available at the scene? What risks would this create?
Kenyan military operatives risk their lives to be close to the dangerous activity. Should the British ask these people to work in such areas? What benefits to Kenya may result? What are the possible benefits to the rest of the world? Are the British justified in their intense interest in this situation?
In this movie American officials are quick to confirm the kill mission. Do you feel this is a typical response of the US to terrorist situations? What is the attitude of the US military personnel who are being asked to “pull the trigger”? Do you think this is an accurate portrayal?
All of the “decision makers” are far removed from the target site. Does this affect their judgment? Does the reliance on technology depicted in this film seem like a good or bad idea for fighting terrorism? What are the pros and cons of using these methods?
From the Studio:
EYE IN THE SKY stars Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, Powell discovers the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill.” But as American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute, reaching the highest levels of US and British government, over the moral, political, and personal implications of modern warfare. Written by Bleecker Street