Eye in the Sky

Writers are evil. They give us impossible situations and expect us to stick with the story until the denouement. Here we have one of our favorite women of a certain age: Helen Mirren; she works ALL the time, who plays a military officer calling the shots as a drone attack directive escalates from "Capture" to "Kill" when suicide bombers are spotted. Suddenly a little girl wanders into the kill zone. Shoot? or Don't Shoot! Can't anybody make up his or her mind? Mirren's character has been tracking this terrorist for years; she does NOT want to give up now!

Director Gavin Hood ("Ender's Game") brings us another action-filled white knuckler, this time about modern warfare where the trigger man is a continent away from his target. In fact decisions are made from England, Nevada, Nairobi, Pearl Harbor, Beijing and Singapore. Screenwriter Guy Hibbert (Lots of TV) seems to know just how to jangle our nerves and question our sense of decency and fair play. We also see a massive sampling of hi-tech weaponry and communications in today's world.

The cast:
  • Helen Mirren ("RED") Colonel Katherine Powell has to make the call, but now that the directive has changed, the Rules of Engagement force her to seek additional permission.
  • Alan Rickman ("Harry Potter") Lieutenant General Frank Benson will hold her accountable, for better or for worse, but he's willing to back her if and when that "committee" at his command post can agree. He tells one of them, "Don't ever tell a soldier he doesn't understand war."
  • Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") American drone pilot Steve Watts has the target in his sights... He has his orders. He understands the issues. Now what?
  • Barkhad Abdi ("Captain Phillips") Resourceful Jama Farah is doing his very best to help our heroes with his skills on the ground, but there is that hardworking little girl...
  • Jeremy Northam (Lots of TV) Brian Woodale is only one of many who are reluctant to make the call. Instead the questions are consistently "kicked upstairs" in this alphabet soup of international warfare, moral quandaries and decision making.
  • Monica Dolan (Lots of TV) Angela Northman insists the propaganda would be worse for the Allies if they kill one nine-year-old girl than it would be if al-Qaeda kills 60 civilians with two suicide bombers whom the Allies had allowed to escape.
Just as we think we know what we would do in the same circumstances, the moral and ethical quandary becomes messier: One life versus many lives. There is NO right answer and everyone pleads his or her case so eloquently we find ourselves in agreement, until... This is involving, exhausting and brilliant!

If you question the ending, it was ever thus: In war, truth is the first casualty - Aeschylus