I watched two movies over the weekend, one that posed a difficult moral and ethical issue, the other that trashed the same issue in a gush of jingoistic nationalism.
I first watched Eye In the Sky with Helen Mirren. Its plot involved a potential drone-launched missile attack on a house in a congested, urban area in Nairobi. At the moment of launch, surveillance intelligence revealed that two suicide bombers were in the house and about to proceed on their missions. Surveillance also showed a young, innocent girl just outside the house. The dilemma was whether to launch the strike that would abort the two suicide missions and likely save up to eighty lives but would likely kill the young girl, or cancel the strike and save the young girl but risk having the suicide missions carried out. The movie shows that there is not an easy answer. It doesn’t provide an easy answer.
The second movie was London Has Fallen. This movie begins with an actual drone-launched missile attack on the compound of a rich terrorist and arms dealer in rural Pakistan. Surveillance clearly showed that there was a wedding in progress with many guests – children, women, innocents. With no discussion, the attack is carried out and many innocents are killed. The terrorist and his sons survive and plot diabolical revenge with an attack on London that plays out like a coup d’etat. The Rambo-style hero rages unscathed through thousands of bullets, grenades, and rockets and eventually saves the day and rescues the U.S. president who behaves like a true American hero. It was nothing more than jingoistic nationalism: we’re the good guys, they are the bad guys, even though the initial missile attack was just as barbarous as the revenge-driven attack on London. The issue of collateral damage from the first attack was never addressed.
I recommend Eye In the Sky. It’s a simple plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat and starts you thinking. Don’t bother with London Has Fallen. Not only it is a gush of jingoism, the plot is unrealistic and illogical. An embarrassing movie.
(P.S. Helen Mirren is 71 years old, way past the age of retirement in the U.S.military, but in Eye In the Sky she plays a very fit-looking colonel. I think she’ll continue to entertain us with great acting for a long time to come.)