Eye in the Sky – movie notes

[It’s OK to read this – no spoilers.]

We just got home from watching “Eye in the Sky”. It was excellent and you should go see it. Be prepared – you will probably leave in dead silence and talk about it all the way home.

We went mainly to see Alan Rickman. He was very good as Liuetenant General Frank Benson, which was great. He went out on a strong performance.

The movie works on so many levels. The main characters – Rickman, Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi – are all three dimensional, especially Paul. The politicians, lawyers and other advisors around them are well done, if not completely fleshed out. They represent their points of view well, which is what I think really matters in this movie.

I love talking about movies and I always start with “what was the writer trying to say?” (This often makes people not want to go to the movies with me, but so it goes. For example, I remember coming away from “Joe Versus the Volcano” talking about how much meaning it had and how quickly every conversation came to a quick dead end.)

In “Eye in the Sky”, I think the writer had a lot to say. I’m not going to go into all of it (there’s too much there!), but I did want to comment on one thing: the dilemma faced by  Sergeant Mushtaq Saddiq (Babou Ceesay).

Saddiq is the one who is told by Helen Mirren’s character that (essentially) “I want to launch the attack. I need to have the Collateral Damage Estimate come in between 45 and 50%. Do what you need to do to make that happen?”

I can imagine that this conversation has happened a million times in a million different circumstances. “It’s your job to make it work.” “Adjust the numbers so it comes out looking right.” “Do it just this once.”

It smacks of the kinds of moral compromises we are sometimes asked to make just to get by. The pilot of the drone (Steve Watts played by Aaron Paul), faces a more obvious moral crisis, but I really like the subtlety of Saddiq’s situation.

I think the writer, Guy Hibbert, did a great thing by showing a smaller, less obvious dilemma. Not many of us will have to decide whether or not to fire a Hellfile missle into a semi-populated area. But we might be called on to make “just a few small adjustments” here and there on a report.



Lisa and Scary Movies 1

The movie “Drag Me To Hell” was a decent entry in the ‘scary movie’ category. I saw it several months ago while it was still on the big screen. About a week ago, I rented it and watched it with Jean. Though she isn’t a big horror movie fan, she really liked the twist ending.

We talked to Lisa about it, thought it might be fun for her too. We don’t watch a lot of scary movies at our house and I thought it might be good to see it together, get a sense of what kinds of things would frighten her, talk her through them. Plus, it was one of the few I’ve seen recently that didn’t either swim in gore or shoot to be terrifying.

Jean and I talked to her a bit beforehand, agreed to tell her when the scary parts were coming, told her there were some funny bits to look forward to as well. We all settled in – lights on, popcorn ready – and turned on the DVD player.

About fifteen minutes into the movie, the major plot is launched: an old Gypsy woman is begging for an extension on her mortgage, the movers are there and ready to throw her out of the house. Alison Lohman’s character  –  a loan officer angling for a promotion by proving she can ‘make the tough decisions’ – turns the woman down. The woman is devastated and falls to her knees, begging not to be thrown out of her home of 30 years.

Lisa is squirming at this point.

The old woman is reduced to begging for mercy from the young bank teller, who flatly rejects her. Security is called and the woman is dragged out of the building.

The next Big Scene is the end of the work day. The teller gets into her car to go home, but sees the Gypsy woman’s car in the parking structure. Scary music comes up, the camera pans and the Gypsy woman is shown in the back seat – spirited magically into the car (she wasn’t there a minute ago) by her floating handkerchief.

A fight ensues during which the old woman attacks Lohman. The fight goes on for several minutes, but by the middle of it, we’d turned the television off.

I don’t want to get too descriptive for fear of embarassing her, but Lisa made it quite clear to us that she didn’t want to see any more of the movie. She was ready to walk out of the room if we didn’t turn it off.


It wasn’t fear. She wasn’t afraid of anything that had happened.

It was a kind of queasy disgust that the storytellers had taken this sad, broken woman who was losing her home and turned her into the Evil Bad Guy of the movie.

I was completely astonished. What an eye opener. What an education in conditioning. We (OK, I’ll just say “I”) have seen so many movies over the years, have seen so many crazies and plot devices and action sequences and etc that some of the basic features of the stories go sailing right past.

Here we were (the good parents) worried that she might be scared about the shadowy demons, or the quick cut scenes that make you jump out of your seat (surprised, not scared), or grossed out by the old woman toppling out of her coffin, and she responded on a much more human level – it just wasn’t right to make the Gypsy woman the bad guy.

What a treat to see such an honest and human reaction from your own kid.