The first thing you see on the screen in Eye in the Sky once the lights dim, the trailers are over, and the studio logos disappear is a quote attributed to Aeschylus. “In war, truth is always the first tragedy.” If this is the very first thing the director wanted us to see, obviously it must be integral to the understanding of the film, but aside from one particular scene, it seemed that the people in this film were determined to get to bottom of the truth, as ephemeral and unfathomable as it ultimately was shown to be. It wasn’t until the movie was over, that the intention of showing us this at the start of the film was to announce that Hood’s intention was to show us as much as possible the truths of modern warfare, what it is we are doing and why we are doing it.
Eye in the Sky is a film about the way modern wars are being fought in the MIddle East and Africa. Where the only boots on the ground are those that belong to militias sympathetic to Western causes, while those Westerners sit in rooms with drones and computer screens. Where civilians and soldiers are next door neighbors and the enemy never presents themself as an easy target. It is one specific scenario involving the capture of high ranking members of a fanatic religious group that Eye in the Sky focuses on, but this scenario is obviously meant to show us without making judgments what it is that comprises warfare.
The cast in Eye in the Sky is ensemble in nature with no one person taking up more screen time than any other, but it must be mentioned that this is Alan Rickman’s penultimate film before his death earlier this year (his very last film will be Alice Through the Looking Glass to be released later this year). He does fantastic work as is usual, and so do his fellow stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Phoebe Fox, Richard McCabe, and a particularly notable performance from a very young girl, Aisha Takow, on whom the majority of the tension in the film hinges.
While the quote from Aeschylus may sum up the themes of the movie, the plot of the movie can be summed up in another sentence often quoted in writing classes. “If a gun is shown in the first act of a play, that gun needs to go off before the curtain goes down at the end.” This sums up the action in Eye in the Sky for the majority of the running time. We wonder if and when that gun is going to go off as people pass decision making on to others, come up with statistical analyses of collateral damage, and debate moralities. The level of ridiculousness that these musings ultimately rise to is the film’s main point, but in a way, is also it’s biggest weakness. The point seems to be that the truth behind modern warfare, and this could probably be passed on to encompass most things in life, is that no one wants to take responsibility for pulling the trigger of that gun, but most (not all) agree that that trigger must be pulled by somebody.
The reason I say musings on morality and responsibility is part of the film’s weakness is both a strength and weakness is that during the running time of the film you actually begin to laugh at these people and the repetitiveness of their trying to pass the buck on to someone else over and over so often that it becomes one of those jokes that’s funny purely because it’s repeated until you can’t help but laugh. Upon reflection, though, I think this is the point. In modern war we are so far removed from our enemy that we have the time and luxury to ponder the consequences of our actions, and while we understand what must be done we don’t want our conscience to be the one what must be done weighs upon.
Eye in the Sky is presented very much in a matter of fact, this is what happened manner, and takes great care to make sure multiple viewpoints are represented. Anything you take away from the film, and there is quite a lot to take away, I’ve only scratched the surface of my thoughts, comes purely from a very objective scenario. This is a film that begs to be discussed by people of different views and persuasions. Eye in the Sky is a very important film, and one that does a phenomenal job of racketing up tension to extreme levels.
Rating: 8.0 out of 10