Eye in the Sky (2016) by Gavin Hood
Review by Zach Dennis
Technology has created a disconnect. At any point while reading this review, you could switch over to Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media website and begin tearing down someone’s opinion or post with a click of your mouse without any recourse or physical ramification (hell, you may just do that to mine too). As technology has grown and modified, so has the island between us and face-to-face relationships and this allows us more power.
The same can be said about the current state of war. In Eye in the Sky, the latest film from director Gavin Hood and screenwriter Guy Hibbert, technology’s role in modern warfare is put on display and this disconnect from the consequences of your actions is the source of tension for the film’s main plot.
Eye in the Sky starts with Col. Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), who is set to lead an insurgence in Kenya where British and American military will work together to capture three members of an African-based terrorist organization. She is joined by Lt. Gen. Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), who is in their London office with a few politicians looking to witness the capture of some of their most wanted fugitives. In Nevada is Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), a drone pilot who is coming in to fly the “eye in the sky.”
As the mission moves along, it is revealed that the terrorists are all inside a house — creating a decision between carrying out the mission or wiping them all out with a drone missile strike. This is met with opposition on Benson’s front after a few of the politicians feel that this was supposed to be a search and capture mission rather than an all-out assault on the area. And for Watts, it would be his first ever strike after six months of performing strictly fact-finding missions.
Not to mention a young girl is setting up shop near the targeted home.
Eye in the Sky is how Hitchcock would do 21st century warfare. The greatest fear is not the massive amounts of weapons we carry, but rather, the lack of empathy we have towards the people being affected by the job being done. While the bombs are being prepped to bombard a Kenyan camp, Benson and the team of politicians sit comfortably in their London chairs, Powell sits behind a wall of computers in her bunker, and Watts pulls the trigger using a joystick from a mobile command center in Las Vegas — 9,394 miles away.
Hood and Hibbert succeed at separating each character from the war-torn arena. Powell is a workaholic who is addicted to finding these terrorists — something she has been trying to accomplish for more than six years. This parallels with Watts, who seems unwilling to be the person to kill these men and women he has never heard of.
Powell wakes up earlier than her alarm. Pacing the room, she returns to her study where she looks over the day’s work in emails and visits her board with the laid out group of terrorists they would be targeting that day. Parallel that with Watts, who rolls over as his alarm goes off and slams his hand over the snooze button. Powell enters her bunker with authority — immediately bringing the whole group of soldiers under her command to attention. She works with a purpose and this drive is what clouds her judgment as she sees the opportunity to strike on the house.
This choice is less simple for Watts, who reveals that he only joined the military to help pay off his student debts from college. This isn’t necessarily a passion for him — it is a job. When he is asked to pull the trigger and catches the little girl setting up her shop out of the corner of his eye, he lacks the same intensity to see the job done like Powell. Six years ago, he was completely unaware who Ayesha Al-Hady or Abdullah Al-Hady are. Much like this girl placing bread on the table, he was just another face in the crowd moving through life, blissfully unaware of the consequences that were facing him.
Eye in the Sky hits its mark just before the credits roll and everyone disperses to go home. Thousands of miles away, they ended three lives — and injured or killed many more that they didn’t know about. Yes, there were suicide bombers being prepped and they probably would’ve done just as much, if not more, damage to the surrounding area. But they were still three lives.
The trigger was pulled from Nevada in the United States while the decision was made by one political figure in China too busy playing ping pong to be fully assessed of the situation while another looks over the facts on the toilet with a bout of food poisoning.
Technology has created disconnect from reality and it is easy to just press one button and create an entirely new situation. The fear in Eye in the Sky is less what the weapons attached to the buttons can do, but rather, the ease that the person pressing it has to make that decision.