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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

A Tense Day at the Office

Eye in the Sky (2015) on IMDb

“In war, truth is the first casualty.”——Aeschylus 

Plot Overview

A scene of urban life in Nairobi, Kenya, shows an honest bicycle repairman Musa Mo'Allim (Armaan Haggio) giving a colorfully taped hula hoop to his nine-year-old daughter Alia (Aisha Takow) and telling her to, “Go play.” A crane shot shows a militarized zone with a nearby house in some­body's cross hairs.

In Surrey, England, a weathered old blonde in bed wakes up to her 4:15 am alarm and uses the finger­print ID app. on her laptop to log in and learn that Somali Al-Shabaab has executed a spy. An 8:45 pm PST alarm—2045 reads the clock—awakens a military (drone) pilot in Las Vegas, stationed at Creech AFB. At Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), London, British officials convene for another day. A signal analysis unit in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii comes online. Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) is their man on the ground. Intel gathered by the executed operative gives this team a new target.

There's an arrival at Jomo Kenyata Airport, Nairobi, Kenya. Colonel Katherine “Mom” Powell (Helen Mirren) briefs her team on Operation Egret targeting #4 & #5 top terrorists on the East African most wanted list. As soon as a certain radicalized British subject arrives at a particular destination under observation by their eye in the sky drone, Kenyan Special Forces will do a cordon and search maneuver to bring the traitors in for trial. As the start of work­days go it's not too dissimilar from that of a private eye break­fasting with his girl­friend in a Peter Spiegelman novel: (129)

“What the hell is that?” She froze with a forkful of pad thai half­way to her mouth.

“It's a Glock 30, a nine-millimeter semiautomatic handgun.”

“I see it's a gun. What are you doing with it?”

“I'm putting it in its holster and fastening it to my belt.”

“Don't be funny. Why do you need it?”

“I'm hoping to find the guy I romped around Central Park with last night, and I'm hoping for a more sedate conversation.”

“You're going to … shoot him?”

“I'd rather talk, but it's nice to have options.”

“Jesus,” she breathed.

The drone (UAV) does have two hellfire missiles on board, not even a full complement. They wanted a light load to allow more flying time (“Ten hours time on station remaining.”) But nobody's looking to shoot them off in this “capture, not killop., least of all at British and American citizens in a friendly country with whom we're not at war. It's just nice to have options.

The situation changes (“This changes things”) when the targets move to another house in a militarized zone inaccessible to the special forces, and they are joined by #2 terrorist. They proceed to video­tape them­selves strapping on bomb vests presumably for an imminent attack on civilians. For our team it's a case of, “We need to expand our rules of engagement right now.

Further complicating matters is little Alia setting up shop right outside the terrorist compound to sell her mother's peasant bread. Just as bicycle wheels rely on centrifugal force to stabilize motion, there is a certain radius of the lethal force of a blast. The mom's bread was baked into discs, and the heat of the blast has a certain radius to it, as well. The little girl spinning her hula hoop stayed within its circle no matter how she moved, and such is the problem with the projected impact of the missile. It's a case of a child being under­foot in the worst way: within the footprint of an explosion. But if they don't make the hit now, the targets will split up and kill many more innocents. It becomes a byzantine procedure to “refer up” for someone to take responsibility.


In the Bible right before the story of Samson—of cinematic fame by Cecil B. DeMille's “Samson and Delilah”—is the story of the controversial military commander Jephthah who was forced to sacrifice a dear life for military necessity. (Judges 11:1-2) “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead's wife bare him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.” He lived apart with some rough characters, and when his original home­land security was threatened, the elders out of desperation sought his leader­ship. That put him in a predicament when, (Judges 12:2) “I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon.”

(Judges 11:30-40)

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that what­soever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vine­yards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; for­as­much as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

When he vowed, he probably envisioned, say, his most faithful slave being the first out the door, not his apple-of-the-eye daughter “with timbrels and dances.” When our powers-that-be formulated our current rules of engagement allowing some collateral damage, they were thinking of what? a few camel jockeys, towel-heads, and sand niggers maybe, not some innocent girl twirling a hula hoop.

The Colonel's superior, Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), already had to make a tough decision earlier that day: buying a baby doll for his niece's birthday; there were so many to choose from. He bought her the “Time to Sleep” doll, but he had to have it exchanged for the “Baby Moves” one. Like­wise Jephthah probably thought his daughter would be taking her time to sleep, not baby moves out the door.

My Jewish Study Bible has a note for Judges 11:37, “My maidenhood: I will weep because I will die in my youth a childless virgin.” The multicolored hula hoop reflects the adornment of virgins common to some cultures and eras, multi­colored clothing (viz 2Sam. 13:18). From my Jewish Study Bible, the note for Judges 11:40 refers to a “custom … to sing dirges four times a year in memory of Jephthah's daughter.” In “Eye in the Sky” Alia is commemorated with her hula hoop for the duration of the end credits producing the atavistic response that we favor her growing up to marry and bear children.

My Jewish Study Bible notes for Judges 11:39, “The text shies away from explicitly depicting her sacrifice, which leads some ancient and modern inter­preters (e.g. Radak) to suggest that she was not actually killed.” Maybe she was sent to the equivalent of a convent. My review of “The Lucky One” favored that inter­preta­tion. In “Eye in the Sky” the numbers man bent over back­wards to reduce the kill probability of Alia to under 50%. How­ever, the film's epigraph about the casualty of truth in war leads one to think this was more with an eye towards getting better press out of the result. For what it's worth, though, Jephthah is listed as a pie-in-the-sky hero of the faith in the New Testament, (Heb. 11:32-34) “And what shall I … say … of … Jephthah, … Who … out of weakness w[as] made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

Production Values

This film, “” (2016) was directed by Gavin Hood. Its screenplay was written by Guy Hibbert. It stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman. All the actors gave poignant per­formances. Despite being miscast—in her late 60s she's too old for active duty—Helen Mirren is out­standing as a Colonel in charge. Aaron Paul out­does him­self as a pilot under increasing pressure. Alan Rickman gives a flawless performance as upper level brass with a touch of humor. Barkhad Abdi is great as boots on the ground. The rest all acquit them­selves well. Aisha Takow steals the show as the little girl.

MPAA rated it R for some violent images and language. It's judiciously directed, with­holding violence as the tension builds to levels calling for some kind of release while simultaneously building sympathy for the girl, calling for restraint.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is the kind of movie that will stay with you after it's over. Whatever your point of view, it helps you see the other side. What­ever decision comes down was not made by monsters. It's a no-win situation for some­body what­ever happens.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh. New York: Oxford University Press. New Jewish Publication Society 2nd ed. of 1999. Print.

Spiegelman, Peter. Red Cat. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. Print.