See No Evil, Hear No Evil
How much is one life worth? Is it invaluable? Is it worth the lives of 5 other people? What about double that? Or perhaps 80 others?
Think about it. No, really think about it. This is what Eye in the Sky asks of us all. The story is remarkably brief and plays devil’s advocate over a short few operational hours in a mission to stop known group of terrorists inside Kenya.
It seems simple at first; there are people recruiting fanatics who are ready to become suicide bombers. Intelligence is gathered these people have suicide vests, they will follow through but a drone is ready and can take them out. Do it, right?!
The problem is that there is a little girl, Alia (Alisha Takow) selling bread outside the walls of the compound where these terrorists are meeting. Collateral damage means that she is likely to be seriously disfigured or permanently disabled in a best case scenario. At worst it’s a gruesome death.
Is it still OK to drop a bomb? What if there are other innocent locals buying bread from her at the time? What if I told you that her father is particularly progressive and accepting for that community? Is it still OK? This could be your daughter, killed without seeing or hearing death approaching. This could be your mum, dad or friend killed whilst simply buying bread. Killed from the safety of a bunker tens, hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
It’s not OK to drop a bomb? Congratulations you have just killed and injured hundreds of others through inaction. How would you decide on your course of action and how would you reconcile your conscience?
Director Gavin Hood masterfully juggles these viewpoints without ever casting judgement on either group of supporters. Tension is built throughout the film thanks to precise scriptwriting and careful editing. He cleverly shows those making the ultimate decision on whether to engage safely tucked away in a nice building having coffee and biscuits whilst showing those on the ground desperate to save the most lives possible, whatever the cost.
However, the film’s triumphs are diminished, remarkably, by the acting from the likes of Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. Mirren plays the head of operations to bring down numbers 2, 5 and 6 on the most wanted list but she feels out of place in the role, almost as if she has been chosen in direct response to recent Hollywood critiques of industrialised sexism.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with a woman playing this role but Helen Mirren doesn’t seem ‘battle-hardened’ for the role she is meant to play. Rickman is much the same too but perhaps to a lesser extent as he never truly commands his authority of experience to an uninitiated room of government officials until his parting words.
These theatrical performances detract from what should have been a thoroughly realistic, gripping and engaging storyline and one which really, shouldn’t need any headline stars to promote. This is an issue that concerns all of us right here, right now. How can we take the moral high ground when we become a faceless instrument of death?
Sure we may have removed a valid threat but to anyone outside of the cosy war room – those people not drinking a nice cup of arabica with a chocolate bourbon in hand – this is just senseless violence. When you put the lives of children in the cross hairs then how do you condone such actions? To save more lives? Yes… No… Perhaps?! Here I am a week later, still no clearer on what I would do.
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ Important subject matter
+ Well paced and directed
+ Good supporting cast
– Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman feel out of place
– Less impact on the ‘pro-drone’ camp because of the above
– We never find out who the bad guys are or how bad they truly are