Eye in the Sky Review – A Man-Made God
“I am the eye in the Sky,
Looking at you – I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools – I can cheat you blind.”
– The Alan Parsons Project
There are some movies that lend credibility to the art of filmmaking. The cinematography – the sound – the costume design – the actors – and the detail in all things that make a movie truly cinematic. Then there’s another kind of movie – that perhaps stumbles in all the aspects above – and is yet loved solely for one, and just one thing.
THE BURDEN IT LAYS ON THE VIEWER TO PICK SIDES ON MORALITY.
Of all the questions that have piqued my interest – the ones regarding morality and justice have always topped the list. That and how Donald Trump is still a candidate for President of America. Now the director Gavin Hood, of Oscar winning “Tsotsi” repute and how-the-hell-could-he-mess-this-up “X-Men Origins – Wolverine” disrepute, attempts to answer these questions by way of a single, continuous, and very real global war scenario.
Here’s how it goes – few people, Americans and a British citizens included, have been ‘radicalised’ as part of a terrorist group in Nairobi, Kenya, are about to embark on a suicide bombing mission. Meanwhile a deadly drone hovers way up in the sky, with its hellfire missiles on standby, controlled by a perpetually-guilty-in-every-movie Aaron Paul.
Funny thing is this – the operation is British, the weapons are American, the command centre is located somewhere else entirely and the drone pilots we talked about – yeah – they’re in errr… Las Vegas.
Now the movie starts with shot of a girl doing the hula hoop (is ‘doing the hula hoop’ an actual phrase?) and a steady zoom out. Way out in fact – until you realise that the shot of the hula hoop thingy was part of live satellite imagery – and could also be used to zoom in on a dude taking a shit in a loo in Mumbai. So – I’m thinking (in a remarkably ‘THOTH-ful’ way) – how the hell did we jump from Nairobi, to London to Las Vegas to Professor Snape?
But once you’re past the Hulk-like location jumps – and the technicalities of the drone strikes (which really, really drag on for way longer than necessary) – the moral dilemmas begin to tear at you.
And the artillery barrage of questions, strike with deadly precision.
Can we pass the death sentence from the safety of our air conditioned control rooms halfway across the world? How do you justify collateral damage – and can killing one innocent person ever fit the equation? Can we say it’s fair to murder someone without a trial on the basis of an “imminent threat to national security”? Is it okay to peep inside people’s homes to confirm a suspicion?
Do we really have the right to mingle in the affairs of others sitting in our plush offices, looking at screens and playing God with our video game controls?
And I could drone on and on about these questions, and if they don’t have you intrigued already – I’d be forced to conclude that you’re probably a 20th century teenager who’s grown up listening to Miley Cyrus. And still thinks the hardest decision to make in the world is choosing between ‘chocolate or strawberry’ at the local Baskin Robbins.
Alan Rickman (who succumbed to cancer this year), is the voice of absolute certainty on behalf of the drone strikes.
He represents prompt military action with insufficient thought by the Americans, and in a way is pitted against the cautiously hesitate nature of the British authorities. His calm demeanour and cold attitude reflect an age in which we are desensitised by violence on the other end of the screen – and in a somewhat weird sort of way – the movie itself serves as a fitting example of this disconnect.
And when all this is done and we arrive at the climatic end – increasingly gathering speed and numerous opinions of world leaders along the way – the movie makes its strongest point yet about the political fallout of these decisions, and the ideological battle being fought backstage, behind the curtain of the physical war. If you’re trying to help people – and instead end up committing ‘lesser evils’ for the sake of the ‘greater good’ – your actions often become fodder for the guys you’re working against, and helps them rally more to their cause.
“But what better cause to rise – than against a force that questions not before it passes the sentence?” –Epitaphs of Sarcofagus
If you’re okay with killing one to save an estimated many – doesn’t that make you the same as the guys you’re working against? Do you not then become the unelected supreme overlord, reigning judgements from the sky, a hammer smashing earthly tables with every strike.
‘Eye in the Sky’ leaves you with no easy conclusions.
It gives you the army’s perspective by asking us to never accuse a soldier of not knowing the true cost of war. It gives us the terrorists’ perspective by showing us how similar we really are to them in so many ways and how simplistic our minds are, even in matters of life and death. It shows us how our majoritarian political democracy, despite being the best system we’ve come up with yet, can still be incredibly flawed from an alternative perspective. And surprisingly also shows also how we’re only a computerised statistic away from the collateral murder of innocents.
The screen makes everything easier. A computer game of sorts, with players gleefully fighting for a name on the leaderboards, their trigger happy fingers hovering over red buttons labelled “fire”, waiting to be pressed.
But most importantly, the movie gives us the perspective of a little girl with a Hula Hoop – joyously going about her uneventful life – caught up in a battle of ideologies.
A war where no side was picked by her. Neither the accused – nor the judge, but an innocent witness called to the stand – and forced to pick between terrible fate and justifiable hate.
That girl is us.
The oblivious majority. Once free to search the sky for stars – but now forever doomed to be fearful.
Shielding their eyes, and scanning the heavens above in a perpetual search for the invisible third eye –
The Eye in the Sky.