Eye in the Sky

In the 'Brothers Karamazov', Dostoevsky has one character pose the question whether the universe is worth the suffering, the tears of a single child? Flying home from Washington yesterday, I watched 'Eye in the Sky' that had a related, if more utilitarian question, at its heart. Do you sacrifice or spare a child when the consequence of sparing may be a greater harm?

The film follows a British led security operation in Kenya that has traced known terrorists to a house in Nairobi (including both US and UK citizens) and where two of them are preparing to undertake a suicide bombing attack. Originally the intention was to seize them but this, given their location, is no longer seen as a feasible option, the alternative is a drone strike. Except just as they prepare to strike a young girl (whom we have been introduced to and certainly can be characterized as cute and charming) comes to sell bread right against the wall of the house to be destroyed.

Though at times, some of the characters (military, political, legal) who become embroiled in the decision making over what to do verge towards caricature (especially the ruthless, no hair out of place, female US senior legal advisor who may as well have 'bitch' tattooed on her forehead), you have to see this as a 'film of ideas'. The characters are there to put points of view rather than emerge as rounded people; and, they do, and the film achieves a compelling sense of the complexity of the issues, the very real dilemmas and genuinely humanizes the situation, replete with happenstance and irony. The British Foreign Secretary, for example, first appears introducing an arms manufacturer at a trade show in some unnamed Asian country before he retires to his hotel with food poisoning! You too realize that members of parliament (resonantly human and fragile) on the whole do not come into public life to preside over decisions of straight forward life and death.

The film leads you astutely to begin asking what would I do/recommend to be done without, I thought, interestingly, guiding you to any prefered conclusion. It was a rare film - one that neither glorified violence nor condemned it but tried (if only in a minor key) to invite its audience to taste something of its real life and of its complexity.

It ends, as you might expect, messily and open endedly - a world in which there is no neatness (or that strange Americanism 'closure').

We sit in our wounded condition, hunting the prospect still of blessings.


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