Gavin Hood not only directed EYE IN THE SKY, the erstwhile actor also took a small role as a military officer overseeing drone pilots. It was one of the things we didn’t have time to talk about on March 2, 2016 when we sat down to discuss his brilliant new film that respects its audience, and its scenario, enough to present its issues without an easy answer to an impossible situation. There was just too much else to cover.
In EYE IN THE SKY, a surveillance operation run by the military on three continents undertaken to capture a high-value target in Somalia turns into something far more volatile when it discovers an imminent terrorist attack. As the military and politicians in three countries look on in real time, the situation suddenly becomes more complicated when a nine-year-old girl selling bread sets up shop on the edge of the strike zone. Instead of quickly releasing the drone’s missiles and taking out the terrorists, the fate of that one little girl, whom they can see all too clearly, becomes a sticking point as issues of ethics, propaganda, and legalities are debated among people whose world views that don’t necessarily mesh with one another.
The result is a tense, superbly suspenseful, and very intelligent dialectic on violence used as a means to an end. And that’s where I started with Hood, asking him to talk about embracing that complexity before moving on to the peculiar intimacy of drone warfare for the drone pilots sitting thousands of miles away from their targets, and the murky waters of international law that governs these actions. We finished with Hood describing Helen Mirren’s ability to intimidate someone two heads taller than she is, musing on the necessity of having serious conversations about the use of technology in warfare, and a heartfelt tribute to Alan Rickman, whose final screen appearance is as a general with a final speech that schools us all.
EYE IN THE SKY, a film about war, ethics, and using violence as a means to an end. Decisions are made under pressure, with politics and perception being considered as much as ethics, leading to a devastating examination of the true consequences of using violence to solve a problem, no matter what the motives involved. The film stars Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Kim Engelbrecht, Meganne Young, Carl Beukes, Monica Dolan, and Aisha Takow as the little girl selling bread. Hood directed from a script by Guy Hibbert. His previous work includes X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, and the Oscar™-winning TSOTSI.