Film Review: Eye in the Sky
It takes a village to bomb a child.
Set across time-zones with a shifting international cast, Eye in the Sky is a film that explores the newfound mundanity and shifting political concerns of murder in the detached world of drone warfare.
A group of radicalised British and American citizens topping the most wanted list enter a house in Nairobi. The government watching the situation above want them captured, but a non-lethal solution may not be available.
A ticking time bomb is placed at everyone’s feet, an imminent terrorist attack will happen through inaction, but direct action would involve the accidental murder of innocent bystanders. Symbolised, with subtlety known to few, by a sweet young girl selling bread to support her family, who just loves to hula-hoop.
The amount of shots of this girl, innocently playing with her hula-hoop while the score swells are truly a bold middle finger to the cruel gods of film, just daring them to murder her for peak emotional pay off.
The characters are placed in the age-old ethical dilemma. One (sweet hula-hooping) life for the lives of many. Interestingly, Gavin Hood and Guy Hibbert, the writer and director, instead reframe this question. It’s not about the choice itself. Each character has an idea of what their decision would be. Instead, the characters are arrested by the political perception of the choice.
How will this effect their chances at another term in office? Is the percentage chance of civilian casualties low enough that they could kill her without being legally culpable?
The director builds tension and story not through action, but refreshingly, inaction.
No one wants to make this choice, so the decision keeps getting kicked up, higher and higher up the kill chain. It’s at these points that the film showcases an absurd view into the political realities of indecisiveness and buck-passing. It shows the bottlenecks of bureaucracy. Except this is a terrifying bureaucracy that determines the murder of people in some far-off land by a single button press.
When the film remains minimal, it builds horror and incredible tension in the legal and formal structure of murder. It’s simplicity is what’s so striking.
The film is very good. It’s close to something special but it’s also ham-fisted. Overly saccharine moments come up repeatedly. Like the characters in the film, Eye in the Sky lacks confidence in how it will be perceived. It is undeniably a big budget Hollywood film, and falls into safe choices that are systematic of them all.
With a little more restraint, and a trust that its audience will understand the characters through how they conduct themselves, as opposed to their monologues, the film could have been a new Dr Strangelove or In the Loop.
Eye in the Sky doesn’t need the humour of those films; it falls short of their boldness.
Review by Riley James.