In ancient Greece long before Gallipoli there was a landmark battle in history where one man’s incredible feat of endurance led to a pivotal military operation that helped invent the modern world.
The ancient Greeks had a grand idea.
They believed in a ‘fair go for everyone’ and that everyone should ‘have a fair go’. If they were to take action, it should always be in an atmosphere of morality and meaning.
Ever since the Battle at Marathon we have evolved over two thousand years, a governing system, which proved to need many checks and balances put in place to make the theory work in practice.
We call it democracy.
The English were adept at shaping its form and from Magna Carta and King John on the fields of Runnymede to the hallowed halls of a Palace along the Thames River at London, they invented the Westminster System of government.
By the beginning of the 20th century it was the most admired such system in the world. Today it varies from one country to another by those who took it on, depending on local conditions and history.
Crossing lines, breaking the rules, stepping outside the boundaries of both the law and morality, the democratic system of government continues to test theory and help to adjust practice in western governed countries around the world today.
What happens if we do cross the line too far?
Who will bring us back on course so that we can continue to stand up for right ways of living vs wrong?
And is it that cut and dried, or black or white?
Such is the dilemma of all those in a set of military outbuildings in America, those in an oak panelled board room in England, and those in the dust on the ground in Kenya.
They are engaging in ‘drone warfare’ in a new movie that pointedly hits its target in more ways than one. Eye in the Sky is a tense thriller, succinctly told under the direction of South African born Gavin Hood, working with Screenwriter Guy Hibbert.
A group of people from three culturally different societies are working together via computer communication, to apprehend and capture the top traitors on a list who are engaged in terrorist activities.
Eye in the Sky is an enthralling thought provoking observation of ‘democracy’ in action.
It is sure to create debate about the rights and wrongs of decisions Helen Mirren as Colonel Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of the operation has to make in collaboration with her colleagues to get the job done.
Especially when it escalates from an observe and capture the protagonists involved, to a kill situation.
Suddenly there’s a challenge they hadn’t expected. Alia (Aisha Takow) a young 9-10 year old girl, whom they have all observed playing with a hula hoop in her parent’s backyard nearby to the target area, unexpectedly enters the zone.
She sets up a stall on the corner of the house selling bread to help her family, triggering an international dispute.
Alia is in very real danger of being collateral damage, unwittingly sparking a drama that will be played out across three continents at the highest level.
Working within an environment of modern warfare, one with drones in many disguises silently and swiftly spying on people without them knowing, this group are able to dispense justice via a remotely controlled and armed eye in the sky.
Her presence however places the drone pilot, operating out of a small bunker room in the desert near Las Vegas Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) in a position that causes him to pose the moral question.
Do you take one innocent life to potentially save hundreds?
The film’s storytelling through its diverse characters draws us all in so that we feel the implications and question the morality of modern warfare.
The audience at my session were calling out their suggestions, totally engaged with what was going down.
American operated, the Eye in the Sky provides not only a bird’s eye view of what is happening in one room of the house under surveillance but also extends into another where they alarmingly discover two men filming and arming two potential martyrs with explosive suicide vests.
The people in the house in Kenya are all highly dangerous and suddenly they are all in one house together a new ball game than what was expected and the allies will be able to achieve a great deal more by taking them all out at once together.
However, the estimate of death and injury to the surrounding innocent population on the street is calculated at 65%
Colonel Powell needs it to be less than 50% or the powers that be won’t make the instant decision she needs to complete her mission.
She’s been tracking her targets for six years and suddenly she has them in her sights together and knows by taking them all out now she will prevent future casualties.
While the point is not spoken, it is obvious too all three countries can blame the explosion in a friendly country, on the explosive vests the men are wearing. So a positive strike will be a win situation for everyone, except the child who more than likely will lose her life
Helen Mirren is excellent as the tough British Colonel Powell, who sees her mission where she hoped to capture those on a path to ruin escalate and become a kill situation. She’s achieved what she has in life by making decisions, not deferring them. However now she’s dealing with politicians passing the buck up the chain of command and she’s totally frustrated/
Her boss Lt. General Benson (Alan Rickman) provides the cool military head trying to make it happen.
The plot humanises the American Secretary of State playing ping pong in China on a goodwill visit, two English Ministers of the Crown, the Foreign Secretary delivering a speech at an ARMS trade fair in Singapore and the UK Foreign Secretary (Ian Glen) taking his call on the loo – he’s suffering from food poisoning.
Colonel Powell’s superior Benson’s American counterpart Lt. Colonel Ed Walsh (Gavin Hood), together with the rest of the ensemble cast, including Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) as the agent on the ground in Kenya alongside Babou Ceesay (Sargeant Mushtaq Saddiqu) his superior, are all very fine in their roles.
Richard McCabe as George Matherson, Jeremy Northam as Brian Woodale and Monica Dolan, excellent as Angela Northman, are all in England along with Benson.
Phoebe Fox (Carrie Gershon) is in that bunker in Nevada with the drone pilot Aaron Paul (Steve Watts).
Over the centuries England has had so many powerful enemies to deal with invading or bombing her shores, the military operate on the idea that sometimes for the greater good we need to accept casualties.
For Angela Northman asked to sit in and witness a capture, when it escalates to a kill situation the dilemma throws up questions she has never had to face finding answers for before. She’s horrified that suddenly they have all been put in a position of deciding who lives and who dies without time to debate the issue.
Democracy is a system the ancient Greeks could not make work. However the Romans took up the gauntlet and ran with it, inventing the system of law that our western civilisation is now based upon, one that wants truth and justice to triumph.
The Greeks had their heroes to help, and while today we may hope a super hero with super powers will swoop in and save the day, idealising and dreaming about it doesn’t help.
We trust and rely on elected officials in government and the military to make hard decisions, without any thought to the human cost they personally pay in carrying them out.
For the fresh-faced drone pilot in America sitting in his bunker in the Nevade desert, with his young female first day recruit at his side, all he sees is a happy kid like the one next-door struggling in the dust.
She’s both innocent and unknowing and he wants to give her at least a chance to have a better life and we understand both his moral and personal dilemma.
Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates observed that the shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them.
Would you pull the trigger?
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame
I hear thy name spoken
And share in its shame*
Excellent – 4/5
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
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Read about the Westminster System