Rules of Engagement

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Bureaucracy meets utilitarianism in Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky, a military procedural drama about drone warfare in Kenya. Helen Mirren plays a British colonel intent on deploying a drone attack on a compound of al-Shabaab terrorists while Alan Rickman, playing a British Lieutenant General, monitors the events with British political officials. Miles away, stationed in a base in Las Vegas, an American drone operator (Aaron Paul) waits for the go-ahead. What seems like a no-brainer gets complicated by moral qualms, politicking, collateral damage concerns, and a comically fastidious attentiveness to rules of engagement. Eye in the Sky is never a farce, though it is funny to hear an argument about the calculus of the fallout: in terms of PR, is one innocent Kenyan life taken by a drone worse than 80 innocent Kenyan lives taken by terrorists? For all the tension the movie summons, Eye in the Sky is predictable; despite all hypotheticals entertained, it’s clear which direction the movie is headed, it’s just a matter of time.

By Alec Julian & Carrie White 

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