Eye in the sky- Movie review

Following Ark’s review, I watched eye in the sky and I got beef.

The movie plays on the phobia that we have somehow come to develop about terrorists and the west’s equivocation of terrorism and Islam. To develop this theme, we have our would be suicide bombers meeting in some house and prayers being said but since we don’t hear what they talk about, the movie leaves us with a single conclusion, it is religiously motivated. It is simplistic.

The conflict or dilemma we are presented with is one-sided. We are driven to believe the suicide bombers and their leaders are irrational actors. So there is no background to their grievances. All we are to assume is they met, prayed, wired themselves ready to cause havoc and Britain has come to save humanity from terror. The only rational actors are the Brits and Muricans. Powell, if not for the little matter of the law, would have blown the plotters to smithereens without a thought. But unfortunately for her, she has to seek approval from civilians some of whom seem unwilling to really get involved, from the foreign secretary to the prime minister.

The drone captain refuses to fire his weapon the first time until the command centre led by Col. Powell sends him a revised collateral damage estimate. He is reluctant to release his weapon lest a child who is selling bread is killed. Angela North argues, and I agree, that firing the missile just because the suicide bombers may kill people is not a good reason to kill an innocent child. Lt. Gen. Frank tells North never to tell a soldier he doesn’t know the cost of war this is after she tells him he ordered a bombing over coffee and biscuits.

My beef with the setting is that no part of Nairobi looks like that. Especially Eastleigh. And more son, we are not at war. Don’t tell me it’s a movie, most people think movies are documentaries and may start asking me if I live in the war zone of Eastleigh!

There are characters who do nothing in the movie. Nothing would be lost even if we didn’t have the command centre in Nairobi since the movie takes place between Col. Powell, Frank, the drone pilots and the situation room in the UK.

On collateral damage, this comment by Wole Soyinka resonates with me

The accidental casualty that is inflicted on innocents in the course of a conflict- I detest the expression ‘collateral damage’ when applied to human lives- occupies a different level of responsibility and censure, to be judged on the efforts made by participants in the conflict to avoid such violations of innocence or neutrality.

The acting is quite good.

And a comment on Westgate and Garissa attacks which are mentioned in passing the movie. I think somewhat the government or people in it were culpable in this crimes, their response appalling. I distrust the government line on the attacks, and for good reason.

While it is true gratuitous violence as practiced by suicide bombers is disgraceful, many government actors and actions would qualify as terrorism. They resign several millions to lives of misery, even death. For example corruption in the health sector means drugs are not available for patients, there are no doctors and more die from such acts than die from terrorist activities. We need perspective in addressing such matters. We must ask what are the issues that drive some people to the point of willing to die for causes that on the surface look absurd? Religion alone, to me, is not a sufficient answer.

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