The real-time decision-making process of a targeted drone strike is the controversial topic in director Gavin Hood’s riveting pseudo military/political thriller ‘Eye in the Sky.’ Told from a uniquely British point-of-view (with some American non-binding input, since the drone is operated from Creech AFB) where stringent rules of engagement are being observed, EITS depicts the difficulties faced by military commanders and civilian officials alike when authorizing a drone strike in real-time while also making sure that their asses are covered.
What started out as a routine Predator surveillance mission to support a snatch-and-grab mission by Kenyan ground troops gets complicated when the terrorists were observed preparing two willing martyrs for a suicide bombing. With time thus “running out,” a snap decision was made to change the mission objective from “capture” to “kill” since hundreds of lives are now at stake. While the mission commander, a rather cold and hard-nosed British colonel played by Helen Mirren, her immediate superior (Alan Rickman in his last role) and the Americans remain undeterred even when a young girl inadvertently sets up shop right outside the terrorists’ hideout, the more collateral damage-averse civilian leadership at Whitehall were subjected to much soul-searching and hand-wringing in the film’s consensus-by-committee approach.
Whether or not EITS’s portrayal of drone strikes is realistic in a real world context, one cannot argue that it is engrossing, suspenseful and utterly thought-provoking. The film essentially poses the question of who gets to play God in our age of push-button warfare, and forces us to face the consequences of killing innocents (euphemistically labeled “acceptable collateral damage”) for the sake of some perceived greater good. They even got it down to percentages. Whatever your views of targeted drone strikes may be, EITS is a fascinating film that should not be missed.