Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eye In The Sky - drone warfare: all picture no sound, but with the same deadly consequence

Some of the highest terrorist targets on the East African most wanted list meet in the suburbs of Nairobi, Kenya. High in the sky a US drone watches over the property. Smaller (futuristic) covert cameras disguised as a hovering bird and a flying beetle add street level and indoor surveillance capability.

In Surrey, Vegas, Hawaii, London and an under-the-weather Government minister’s Singapore hotel room, people in the “kill chain” watch as an operation to capture has to adapt to changing circumstances and becomes a matter of shoot to kill once a couple of suicide bomber vests are added to the equation.
“Do we have authority to prosecute the target?”

While the military options are limited, the political consequences are less well understood. Is there any precedent for the UK launching a drone strike over a friendly country? Can the definite harm of a “sweet child” near the target building ever be traded against the speculative harm against many, many more lives – including children – in a crowded retail outlet? Does her presence challenge the military, human rights, legal or political decision?
“[That would be] obvious to anyone not trying to avoid making a decision.”

While the software industry isn’t usually quite so life and death, the scenes were reminiscent from major release teleconferences or major incident calls in my past which seemed to have a cast of hundreds, where opinions outnumbered people, and only a few people were ever willing to break through the chaos to make clear decisions and live with the consequences.

In the case of Eye In The Sky, the time-constrained decision isn’t whether to deploy or back out a new software drop before the maintenance window ends.

The mission is coordinated from a UK underground military bunker, a COBRA meeting room, a photo analyst’s desk and a tiny desert Portakabin which serves as the flight deck for the drone pilot and his TOOLS operator.
“Mam, I think it would be wise for you to refer up.”

Warfare by committee, with people watching screens, mostly in silence. The need to escalate to higher authorities out of fear as well as to follow protocol. Pressing for decisions to be made before the targets leave the house and go their separate ways and wreck havoc on innocent lives.
“Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.”

Guy Hibbert’s multi-layered script with its mounting jeopardy and runaway situation is superb fodder for Gavin Hood’s direction and the ensemble cast that includes Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Phoebe Fox and Aaron Paul.

Eye In The Sky skilfully explores the grey space between absolute facts, examines the moral latitude of analysts and officers. The remote conflict shown is no less brutal, even if it minimises the blood on the hands of the supposed ‘good guys’. The difference is the silence. All picture no sound. Yet at the end of this mission, the audience see what the kill chain don’t witness: the final sobering consequence of their action.

One can only hope that this much care is taken every day during modern warfare.

Eye In The Sky is on general release in cinemas. One of the best films I’ve seen so far this year.

1 comment:

Norwin! said...

A relentlessly gripping film, as the odds get higher and higher as the situation gets more and more difficult.
A war movie for the 21st century.