Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eye in the Sky: A war movie with a difference which deals with the dilemmas of killing the enemy and saving the innocents

This is a British production with a South African director, a top notch British actress Helen Mirren and a top notch British actor Alan Rickman, who has died recently, and a young American actor, Aaron Paul, a South African director Gavin Hood, who has won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film, and an award-winning British screenplay writer Guy Hibbert. What they together offer in Eye in the Sky is a superb, taut drama. The film attempts, as does Katheryn Bigelow's "Hurt Locker" (2008), to look at the human beings engaged in the act of war. "Eye in the SkY" shows the agonising moments felt by the people in uniform, in the bureaucracy and in political positions where they have to take hard decisions. It is certainly a movie situation because in real life, the Western countries, fight wars as ruthlessly as any one else. But the West has always felt compelled to justify to itself and to others that it was not fighting a just war, but that it fights the war as justly as is possible. Of course, both are big lies except in a very broad sense. But the attempt of directors like Hood to pose the dilemma through a film, and try to answer it as honestly as it is possible is creditworthy.
The film shows the reality of drone wars, where there is really one war room, either on the field or at the general headquarters. The drone war is prosecuted from different places on the globe and the theatre of war is a tiny dot on the map. Though the war has become technologised and even digitised, there is no getting away from the fact that the action takes place on the field, among real people. It is also the case that people behind telephones and consoles are also real ones. They are not zombies though the war seems to be turning into a zombie game at one level.
The director tries to show the problem of human beings engaged in a war in as unsentimental a fashion as possible. Alan Rickman has a fine line in the movie: "Never tell a soldier that he does not know the value of life." That is indeed the theme of the film. Though there is a general division between the people in uniform and the civilian decision-makers that sometimes, actually it should read most of the time, it is the innocent people who die in large numbers before the few terrorists can be killed.
Mirren, Rickman and Aaron give convincing performances. But that is only a sidelight of the film because the real issue is picturised around a small family. It is this part of the story that is heart-breaking, and which is the one that makes the decision-makers, at least as depicted in this movie, as nervous-wrecks.
It has to be conceded that terrorists have no such compunctions and compulsions as felt by those who are fighting the anti-terror war. And it can never be argued that if terrorists do not ever concern themselves with the rights and wrongs of killings, why should those who are fighting terrorism do so. But that is indeed the test case. If you are fighting, or you believe you are fighting for the right reasons, then you cannot employ wrong methods to emerge a winner.
This is something that anti-terror hawks in underdeveloped countries like India need to grasp. You can never be on the right side as long as you do not think right.
It is easy to be cynical about "Eye in the Sky" because the Western countries have rarely paused to consider the death of hundreds and thousands of Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians in the wars that have been raging ever since the turn of the century.
This movie is not for the weak-hearted though you need a heart to feel its impact.

1 comment:

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