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.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

21 thoughts on “Eye in the sky- Movie review

  1. We seldom watch movies any more.


  2. Here’s another film I must give a look to. Excellent review and perspective, too.


  3. Personally, I’m getting tired of films that pretend to tackle big issues. They seem to do more harm than good. People watch them and then decide they’re morally superior for not wanting to drone strike a kid, despite being okay with having someone else do it on their behalf.

    In a just world, drone strikes would be illegal, along with any and all weapons that deny mutuality of combat. If ending a human’s life is necessary, then it follows that such a risk is worth risking your own life. Self-defense and defense of others is predicated on this idea that a risk to life has to exist before being able to take another’s.

    These ideas aren’t easy to grasp, so instead it has to get boiled down to a stereotype or prejudice. This makes it even more evidence that we might not be an intelligent species after all.


  4. renudepride says:

    I have not watched The Eye In The Sky. Movies involving terrorists don’t appeal to me as they stereotype the “bad guys” and the “good guys.” They also espouse religious prejudice. I totally agree with your arguments in the review and especially the “collateral damage” terminology and concept. Once a human life is extinguished, it is over, finished, gone forever. It can never be replaced. End of story.

    Nice review. Thank you. Naked hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Indeed, religion alone is not a sufficient answer; and, neither is the usual portrayal of “good guys” and “bad guys.”

    When Dylann Storm Roof (yes, that is his middle name) walked into a South Carolina church and murdered all the black people he could, his motivation was white supremacy and not religion.

    When the U.S. dropped bombs all over Vietnam and killed thousands of helpless civilians, its motivation was Cold War antagonism and not religion.

    I could go on and on, but what would be the point? Terrorism, by any other name, would smell as foul.


  6. […] This makes it even more evidence that we might not be an intelligent species after all. on my last post, I thought raised an interesting debate and so I thought I could say slightly more about it but […]


  7. Swarn Gill says:

    I certainly agree with you, and perhaps knowing this already I didn’t quite get the same impression, but I can certainly agree that perhaps the movie sends the wrong message in general. Would anybody make the decision locally here, given the danger of domestic terrorism, if we suspected foul play and infrared from a drone showed a guy going into his father’s closet to get an AR-15. Knowing that the damage he might do, would we just bomb the house and accept the collateral damage? Certainly there are differences in perhaps how you might be able to intervene locally instead of internationally, but I saw the movie more as just an ethical dilemma: like the trolley problem, so I thought it was interesting movie from that perspective. And I think the question of collateral damage is an important one, just as is the exposure of corruption in the health sector. The asymmetry is that this drone type question is always paid more attention, because it suits the western trope of being some sort of moral protectors in a less civilized and chaotic world. Ignoring the fact that we tend to create a lot of that chaos first. For instance the whole illegal alien thing across the U.S./Mexico border I find extremely troubling given that many of the people who are refugees trying to escape here are ones of our own creation through the war on drugs.

    While I might say it’s better to prevent the death of many at the expense of one child in a trolley problem sort of way, what the trolley problem ignores is the real world impact of collateral damage. Even when the best of intentions to maximize the lives saved occurs, any collateral damage causes grief, anger, loss of economic livelihood, and these after effects can lead to more people being a state in which they can be easily exploited. Such people may be in a perpetually state now of being financially siphoned by more powerful forces, their emotional state may render them more likely to be recruited into extremist groups. Children and adults suffering from PTSD, and no mental health resources to help them recover are just more likely to become unproductive at best, or violent at worst. So it’s never just as simply as “collateral damage is the cost of war”, because collateral damage is never just about a body count.


    • makagutu says:

      Every time there has been a mass shooting in the US- I would call them terrorist activities- there have been reports that the FBI had been notified or that these fellows were on some watchlist. One wonders why being that they pose a potential threat, there are no drones watching them to take them out at the opportune moment?
      To call deaths of innocents collateral damage is quite disturbing though there are people who have argued there are no innocents in war.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Swarn Gill says:

        Well said. Maybe collateral damage is unavoidable and there are those who wage war who will use the threat of collateral damage as a deterrent. But at the very least it should always make us use every last possible option before using war because of how much collateral damage that can occur. But then of course one might argue that if collateral damage is going to occur anyway, pre-emptive strikes to minimize collateral damage now as opposed to greater collateral damage later is a better option. It becomes an ethical morass in which no easy answers can be found. I am not a complete pacificist and I think violence is sometimes the only option, but in the end there are just too many bad ideas, too much poverty, and not enough education. Shit is going to keep happening until we are committed to fighting the fight that has the long-term gains and not the short term ones. I don’t know. War sucks and we now have extremely destructive weapons that allow us to kill without ever seeing the faces of those we destroy, and that to me is very worrying.


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