Movie Review Sample of "Eye in the Sky"

Published: 2022-05-17 17:59:10
Movie Review Sample of "Eye in the Sky"
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Terrorism War Movie
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1642 words
14 min read

The war films remain one of the cinemas' enduring genre in which major practical conflicts and issues of international importance in times of war have been illustrated. They are known to wrestle with the rapidly changing nature of wars. On the other hand, the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) is struggling to regulate the operations of warfare and ensure the legal impressions are upheld at such times. However, the efforts are challenged by self-conflicting interests of nations, the suffering of civilians among other never-ending challenges. As the use of drones in battles continues getting into the public consciousness, the film Eye in the Sky presents legal and moral issues that bother the international community and are addressed in the IHL. For instance, the movie presents an ethical dilemma of whether the British and American soldiers should order a strike that would kill high-ranking terrorists and kill an innocent 9-year old girl or stop the order and save the girl. This touches on IHL provisions where civilians are to be treated humanely and protected from all forms of violence, murder, and torture. In this paper, humanitarian issues raised in the film will be explored in accordance with the International Humanitarian Laws.

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The storyline in the film is focused on a planned multinational mission to capture high-ranking Al-Shaabab militants in Nairobi, Kenya where they are planning to launch a deadly attack ("Eye in the Sky," 2016). The terrorists had gathered in a suburb of the city and are arming two suicide bombers one of which is an American. However, we are made to accept that terrorism control unit of Nairobi who comprises of high-skilled special forces of Kenyan Defence Forces would not get to the area. The presupposed consequences of their attempt would lead to mass killing. As such, the arrangement in the scenario forces a change in the mission of capturing to killing the terrorists using US Air Force Hellfire missile which is right above the target. Before the command is issued, an innocent girl emerges in the adjacent market that is likely to perish when the terrorists are bombed. It is internationally accepted that attempts to capture suspects be explored to a conclusive end before the killing mission is considered.

The unnerving question at the center of the film is whether or not the bombing of the dangerous group of terrorists who are on a mission to launch a deadly suicide attack will justify the taking life of an innocent young girl who has emerged in a nearby market to sell bread. According to the principle of distinction, only enemy combatants should be targeted in war. The ethics of the same law provides that in doing so, unescapably attack to anticipatable but unintended death of non-combatants is justifiable. According to the IHL, protection of civilians is a cornerstone on which the provisions and regulations of the statue stand. The protection covers also their private and public property ("Civilians protected under international humanitarian law - ICRC," 2010). What is more, the law emphasizes the protection of vulnerable civilians such as women, children, and the expatriated persons (Joly, 2015).

Moreover, in cases where the public interest is of the essence, the IHL holds that assessment of collateral damage should be carried out first. As in the scenario in the movie, the double effect assessment was necessary before making the decision of whether to fire or not. On one hand, killing the terrorists was important and necessary for it was the only way of preventing the mayhem likely to be caused by them. On the other hand, taking the life of an innocent young girl is unethical, immoral and unacceptable in many global jurisdictions. The application of the doctrine of double effect is in the trial in the scenes presented (FitzPatrick, 2012). As well, other topical issues such as military ethics, use of lethal force in combating missions, civil-military relations as well as moral injury are also brought up. Evidently, much collateral damage is committed that finally leads to the death of Alia, the young girl after seeking treatment in the hospital. The parents are also injured. Much property of innocent civilians is destroyed. Based on the international humanitarian law, it is precise to accept that collateral damage is an unavoidable reality of war especially against terrorism and will remain so for the imaginable future (White, 2014).

As well, the events in the movie bring about the real debate on bombing civilian homes in residential neighborhood whenever a suspected terrorist is nearby. As it is in many targeted operations carried out by US military in countries such as Syria and Pakistan, many innocent civilians are killed, maimed, and their residences destroyed (Green, n.d.). Conveniently, the events in the movie desert the residential neighborhood shortly after the attack and shift the focus to the suffering caused by the drone operators and the pilot. According to Rule 7 in the IHL, the civilian objects shall not the object of the attack ("Civilians protected under international humanitarian law - ICRC," 2010). The protection laws of civilians provided by the Geneva Convention and additional protocols are extensive but their application is still scanty.

Another realistic issue raised in the movie is the treatment of the Somali agents which many can presume to be throwaway. Evidently, they are sent again and again to suicide missions. Critics argue that the move is based on the racist assumption that all individuals from the Somali-origin are terrorism-oriented and as such, they should be at the forefront of antiterrorism activities. What is more, the members of the community are left out in the robust calculations of algorithms. It is internationally unaccepted to discriminate or profile individuals based on their race, religion or community (Daniel, 2012). According to the Islamic and IHL law, it is abundantly clear that the enemy combatant should be the target. As well, civilians, noncombatants, and army combatants should not be used in such as a way that can be established to be prejudice, discrimination or bias as a result of their race, religion, tribe, community, and belief ("International Terrorism and the Jurisdiction of Islamic Law," 2015.

Moreover, the differences in perception and implementation of protection of civilian laws by different nations come to play in the movie. It is clear that the self-interests of some countries notably the United States and the United Kingdom form the basis of the differences in the argument. The advisory comments by COBRA group in the movie are divided on grounds of conflicting legal and political views on whether to launch the missile attack or not. What is more, the realization that American and British nationals are part of the target complicates their decision-making process. In fact, conflict of interest comes to play at this point. It is in this light that we see much consultation with British Army legal counsel, COBRA group, UK foreign secretary and US secretary of state. The UK foreign secretary is also indecisive and as such he differs with the US secretary of state who immediately declares the American Bomber an enemy to be eliminated. However, the IHL provides that the application of practices and rules should be uniformly regardless of who is involved ("International Committee of the Red Cross and Customary International Humanitarian Law," n.d.).

Additionally, the politicians and lawyers in the different stages of the chain of command present different lines of arguments that are majorly based on personal, political and legal merits. According to them, the collateral damage is significant not necessarily because there are civilians at the point of attack but because their countries' interests are in the course. They tend to insinuate that they should not launch the Hellfire missile attack in a country that is not at war with the US or the UK. The principles of humanitarian action are firmly grounded on impartiality during the application of the provisions underneath. The interference of "strong nations" interests is not permitted in the provisions.

In conclusion, the director Gavin Hood in the movie Eye in the Sky presents interesting intuitions about military ethics, application of the doctrine of double effect, and protection of civilians during war or combat missions. From the movie, an ethical dilemma is presented where the high-value Al-Shaabab militias are to be killed they launch an attack in an environment that host innocent civilians. The IHL provides that noncombatants should never be the target in such situations unless when they are in the category of "unintended casualties". The applications and implementation of the IHL are firmly grounded on rule of law, ethical and humanitarian standards ("Eye in the Sky? Film review: 'Tension and moral uncertainty?" 2016). Therefore, the movie can be said to have succeeded in bringing weight issues that are emphasized in the IHL such as civilian safety and use of lethal force.


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Patrick, W. J. (2012). The Doctrine of Double Effect: Intention and Permissibility. Philosophy Compass, 7(3), 183-196. doi:10.1111/j.1747-9991.2011.00474.x

Green, L. (n.d.). The Relevance Of Humanitarian Law To Terrorism And Terrorists. International Humanitarian Law: Origins, Challenges, Prospects International Humanitarian Law: Origins, Challenges, Prospects (3 vols), 755-792. doi:10.1163/ej.9781571052674.i-1142.210

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International Terrorism and the Jurisdiction of Islamic Law. (2015). International Criminal Law Review, 15(3), 565-586. doi:10.1163/15718123-01503004

Joly, H. J. (2015). States' obligations toward their own civilian population and military forces in times of armed conflict according to international humanitarian and human rights law.

White, J. R. (2014). Terrorism and homeland security

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