Eye in the Sky is a thriller that uses the Islamic extremism in Kenya as the basis for a taut, almost unbearably tense plot involving drones, local military and UK and US governments in the way the Cold War used to be an effective context. The film’s ability to make us see the reality of such conflicts and understand what ‘collateral damage’ really means in terms of people may gain some attention, but decision making is the real star of the film. In the same way The Martian was really about putting problem solving in a cinematic context, so Eye in the Sky is focused on getting us under the skin of how decisions are made in complicated environments when there is no good decision. MBA students should study this film as a group exercise.
What the film manages to convey is a sense of authenticity across all of the characters. There is no binary here, people may be operating at different places along the Hawks-Doves spectrum, even Mirren’s Hawkish Colonel is has a sense of what she believes to be the most humane decision that we can empathise with.
The last half of the film is effectively an extended adaptation on the moral dilemma: behind one door are 100 people, behind the other is your child. You can only open one door to save those behind it, which do you open? So few films go anywhere near this kind of moral complexity that it makes you realise just how rare this is. Combined with the realistic portrayal of characters throughout the different networks and you wonder why we put up with such cliched and one dimensional depictions in other thrillers. After the MBA students have finished with the film, students studying utilitarianism in moral philosophy should have a go.
If my pitch that this is a cinematic stab at John Stuart Mill hasn’t convinced you that it’s worth a watch, then I offer these two reasons also:
1) It contains the tensest bread buying sequence in cinematic history
2) It features a fitting last performance from Alan Rickman.
3) It is just over 90 minutes long. When Batman vs Superman: Who Gives a Shit and Captain America: There isn’t Really a Conflict both come in around a flabby 2.5 hours, it is refreshing to see you can get this much done in a reasonable time length.