The other night Dee and I sat down to watch a DVD. It was the film Eye In The Sky, and we’d bought it on the strength of Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman being in it: it’s generally difficult to go wrong with either of them. We didn’t even read the synopsis on the back.
The basic premise of the film is that the UK and US governments have been following known terrorists for some time and finally have them in their sights in a house in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Kenyan army force is on standby to try to capture them. There is an armed drone in the skies above, and it is relaying images back to teams in the UK and US.
The suspects then move to another part of Nairobi which is effectively a no go area for the authorities. Further surveillance reveals two men putting on explosive vests and preparing to move out into the population. It is only possible to follow one target with the drone, so if the bombers move out there’s a choice to be made of who to follow. The drone targets the premises they’re in, and a calculation of likely collateral damage gives acceptable figures.
Then, a young girl appears and sets up shop selling bread her mother has made, right outside part of the target building. The collateral damage calculation shows she is likely to die.
And here’s the crux of the film, one which they draw out very well, looking for approval from various government departments, the military and all interested parties. The question is: do you take the opportunity to kill known high level terrorists you’ve been chasing for 6 years along with two imminent suicide bombers who are likely to kill 10s if not 100s of people, but it also means an innocent young girl will almost certainly die? Or do you hold back, and save her life at the expense of unknown numbers of others.
The film presents good arguments for both decisions, as there is merit in both. There are also arguments to be made against both. Things like – if they let the bombers walk, when they detonate their vests they will be blamed, but if the US and UK kill an innocent girl then they are likely to stir up anti-Western feeling. And where does the law sit on this, with two nations launching a lethal attack on the home soil of a third, friendly, country?
I wouldn’t necessarily rush to watch the film again, but it certainly provided a lot of food for thought. What would you do? What choices would you make?