Sunday, 4 September 2016

Movie: Eye in the Sky

Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a young girl enters the kill zone, triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.

(Edited out of my post a lot of swearing and top-notch insults...there's still a lot of swearing)

I just finished watching this incredible movie. All that I can think about right now is this.

Every single international relations student needs to fucking watch Eye in the Sky. 

Actually, every single person who holds any opinion about war, politics, and human rights needs to watch Eye in the Sky.

I am not kidding. 

You know how many people think they know what it's like to make a judgement call in the heart of an ongoing war zone?

To think that wartime actions can be critiqued through the black and white lens of moral absolutism (i.e. "this act is always wrong" and "this act is always right")?

To think that their personal interpretation of an intricate military or government decision is somehow an 'obvious' one, and more credible than those held by the people who actually knew all the available facts, have experienced war on the ground, and have to bear real-world responsibility for their decisions? 

A LOT. Because I had to debate such persons (friends IRL) with such views on Facebook recently.

Eye in the Sky, a consummately woven and utterly compelling story, will make what I think is already totally fucking obvious even more obvious. 

Wartime decisions, especially under tight time frames and unforgiving public scrutiny, are extremely difficult to make. They also and very often involve moral ambiguity, and moral relativism. Sometimes, it is as impossible to decide on a wartime action as it is to answer the biggest philosophical/ethical questions of our time. 

e.g. THAT 'trolley problem':

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the most ethical choice?

I feel like everything I'm typing out right now is so commonsensical and shouldn't even need to be stated. I feel like a fucking pedagogic, tautological dickhead even pasting the trolley problem here, and bolding certain lines that I think are important. I don't want to come off patronising and yet... 

The fact that I had clearly intelligent friends not understanding or unwilling to recognise this concept of 'yeah, sometimes there is no way to decide on right and wrong, and thus it is probably not a good idea for us as privileged first-world netizens to impose our opinions onto other people with more knowledge than us, relating to problems that they personally deal with' - was immensely frustrating.

Of course, it would be acceptable that somebody make a moral judgment AFTER they take into account every possible factor (that is available to them) about the conflict. But frankly, we're twenty something year old college students living in the most liveable city in the world. Come on.

There is simply no way we are in any position to know everything about a freaking war occurring 3000 miles away in a country, and then comment authoritatively on a morally ambiguous situation occurring in its midst. 

Anyway, Eye in the Sky is a MUST WATCH. It is just a beautiful film. I weeped for a few seconds at the end. 

KIND OF A SPOILER (pretty obvious ending anyway) (the most apt summary of Eye in the Sky):

Tear-stained politician:

"In my opinion, that was disgraceful. And all done from the safety of your chair."

A Lieutenant General stands up, preparing to leave the room. In a deep, measured tone, he reminds her:

"I have attended the immediate aftermath of five suicide bombings. 

On the ground, with the bodies. 

What you witnessed today, with your coffee and biscuits, is terrible. 

What these men would have done would have been even more terrible. 

Never. Tell a soldier. That he does not know the cost of war."

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