Director Gavin Hood is eager to talk about his new project, Eye in the sky. That’s probably because his film, which premieres this weekend, features many contemporary topics of discussion, such as the evolution of drone technology or the ethical implications of autonomous warfare.
What do you notice first Eye in the sky is the technique. Even though Hood’s movie is about drone warfare, the military-grade drone flying over Kenya isn’t really what Eye in the sky is about. Other than a few quick CGI-esque shots of a Reaper in flight, most of the spying is done by a funny mechanical hummingbird drone and a small camera-mounted mechanical beetle. Hood said that while the two drones aren’t exactly plucked from a current military reality, both are based on prototypes built (in the case of the Hummingbird) or described as micro-aerial vehicles or MAVs (in the case of the Beetle).
The director added that he didn’t want to get too caught up in today’s current events because drone technology is changing fast:
Technology moves fast, what we show in the movies is generally already there, the real question of the movie is knowing where we’re going, asking what the right policies are, legally, politically, in the new world of automated weapons … I hope our audience will focus less on our cameras … you can spend forever on the technical stuff. [I wanted to ask audiences,] we go to a place where there will be permanent armed surveillance, not just there [in foreign countries]but here?
Hood also mentioned two books he was reading about drone warfare called one Kill Chain: The Rise of High-Tech Assassins and the other called A theory of the drone. He paused to read a paragraph from the latter that described a cloud of dragonflies in the sky that are really miniaturized drones that can be steered through a window. “The next step is we don’t just have the single drones, but a variety of drones that are aware of other drones in space,” Hood said. “Now it’s just a matter of shrinking their size.”
An extension of Ender’s game
The Ars audience may know Hood from his work on the 2013 science fiction novel adaptation Ender’s game. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the distant, detached warfare of Ender’s game and that of Eye in the sky.
However, the parallels extend beyond that. One of the two heroes of Eye in the sky is drone pilot Steve Watts (played by Aaron Paul from Break bad), a man who, despite the imposing anger of actress Helen Mirren, dares to question his commanding officer’s orders. I couldn’t help but see a little bit of Ender in Watts’s character too – a young boy, with a lot of responsibility, who has to outsmart the system he has to work in. “When I was making Ender’s game Harrison Ford said to me, ‘this is really about drone warfare,'” Hood told Ars. The director said that got him thinking about “how we prepare for this new world,” so maybe the Ender parallel isn’t so far off.
“We [Ford and Hood] would talk about this to the audience in Q and As, and meanwhile I’m reading scripts, and this Guy Hibbert script comes on my desk and I couldn’t put it down,” Hood continued. the ideas and themes in that film [Ender’s Game].”
That’s not to say that Hood’s new war story feels exactly the same as his last. The drama in it Eye in the sky is smaller in size and the future of the planet is not necessarily at stake this time. This new film also benefits from reality. Drone warfare and the civilian casualties it tacitly accepts are already part of the grim news cycle we see every day. Hood’s latest film doesn’t take sides, but it does challenge us to think about how ethical it is to remove yourself from the battlefield.