“Eye In The Sky” was directed by Gavin Hood, who is also known for directing the 2013 film “Ender’s Game” and the 2007 film “Rendition.” The plot of the film details the legal, ethical and political dilemmas of using drone warfare to prevent terrorist attacks. The plot of the film focuses on Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell and her attempts to obtain legal clearance to capture and kill a group of high priority terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya, an ally of the United States and Great Britain. Other actors include Aaron Paul as second Lieutenant Steve Watts, a USAF drone pilot; Alan Rickman as Lieutenant General Frank Benson; and Barkhad Abdi as a Kenyan undercover agent.
The film opens on Powell locating high level Al-Shabaab extremists in a safe-house. The scene shifts to Watts, who is stationed in Nevada in command of the drone providing aerial surveillance. After the undercover agent obtains ground intel that the terrorists are planning to use explosives, the situation changes from capturing the terrorists before they can execute their plans to using drone warfare to eliminate the targets. The rules of engagement change as high command relentlessly debate whether or not they should proceed with the mission, cause grave injury or death to a civilian and kill the terrorists or allow them to escape. The film raises the question, “Is it okay to kill one civilian if it could save countless others in the future?”
The answer to that question lies in the exploration of an evolving era of modern warfare. Drone warfare disassociates soldiers from the targets they may be forced to kill. It raises the personal and moral dilemma, “Is it right to kill an innocent civilian to eliminate terrorists and save millions of lives?”
The answer may be simple to the average citizen: eliminate the terrorists who would pose a potential threat to our country. But the film puts the audience in the place of the drone pilot and makes them question the ethical and moral ramifications of the decision.
The questions that the film raised are not easily answered. The changing era of warfare has caused us to consider what is morally acceptable in times of immediate action. “Eye in the Sky” is a thought-provoking and heart pounding drama/thriller that positions the audience in the middle of controversial and challenging decisions. The film is Alan Rickman’s last film released posthumously. The standout performance of the film was his, which gave it a second layer of tension. The audience could envision him weighing the pros and cons of every decision. It was, in my opinion, one of his best works.
The film has an overarching sense of tension surrounding what the final decision will be and the moral toll it will have on everyone involved. I left the film with a sense of uncertainty for the future. I still do not have a concrete answer for the question, “Is drone warfare morally justified?”