The following is an excerpt from Wired.com. Check out the full article here »
THE WAR FILMis one of cinema’s most enduring genres; nearly every major conflict of the past century has been depicted on screen—multiple times. Films that wrestle with the rapidly changing nature of war, though, are rarer. As drone warfare continues its slow march into public consciousness, Eye in the Sky is the best movie yet to tackle the legal and moral quagmire surrounding modern technological warfare.
To do that, Eye in the Sky goes granular, telling the story of one particular mission on one particular day. In the movie, opening wide today, British colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) oversees a secret operation to capture a terrorist cell in Nairobi, Kenya. When the mission uncovers a more immediate threat than anticipated, though, the situation escalates. There’s no Normandy landing, no guns-and-mud Vietnam scene; there’s no pulling back, Syriana-style, to examine the context of the conflict. There’s just a British colonel, some American drone pilots, some undercover agents, and a smattering of government officials. Because that’s how international conflicts are resolved now—one clandestine move at a time.
In traditional military conflict, war was fought between nation-states, and the battlefield was the conflict zone. The problem we’re in now is, what is the battlefield? It’s less and less defined by geography and more and more defined by where that ideological enemy moves to.
Throughout its 102-minute runtime, Eye in the Sky raises many questions, from who has the authority to authorize force to whether minor casualties are an acceptable loss if they mean preventing an attack that kills thousands. And it depicts those questions as more than just thought experiments, but as things that stack and snarl, paralyzing decision makers who are playing by outdated rules of war.
The main argument within the film is whether the British government, aided by American drone technology, can go after its own citizens if those citizens are plotting an act of terrorism within the borders of a friendly country. For director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Ender’s Game), that lack of clarity is the foundation of the film. “In traditional military conflict, war was fought between nation-states, and the battlefield was the conflict zone,” Hood says. “What is the battlefield now? It’s less and less defined by geography and more and more defined by where that ideological enemy moves to.”