War is both the poison and the remedy. The nature of modern warfare entails that a soldier’s casual coffee-sipping night shift may be fatal for an innocent child in a far-flung country. Gavin Hood’s 2015 war thriller ‘Eye in the Sky’ posits a timely ethical question about drone warfare that kills civilians alongside known targets.
The story plunges the audiences into a militia-ruled neighborhood in the Horn of Africa. Three known leaders of the infamous terrorist group Al-Shabab have resurfaced, and the US-UK militaries run a joint operation to capture the extremists. However, they are compelled to execute the targets under new circumstances, which kickstarts a bureaucratic loop. If you seek to revisit the finale in greater detail, let us take you back to the explosion site. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Eye in the Sky Plot Synopsis
Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) receives a message from Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), Deputy Chief of the Defense Staff. The notorious terrorist organization Al-Shabab has executed Anwar, a Kenyan informant working for British Intelligence. Al-Shabab is the same organization that orchestrated the Westgate shopping mall attack and the massacre at Garissa University College. The extremists seek to impose the strict version of Sharia law across the Horn of Africa. The situation has escalated beyond control, and Operation Egret is a go.
Powell connects with Frank, having a high-level security meeting with people from the cabinet regarding the mission. While elsewhere in Nevada, Colonel Walsh introduces the crew of operatives to Powell. The team comprises Lieutenant Steve Watts, aircraft commander, Airman First Class Carrie Gershon, Sensor Operator, and Senior Airman Matt Levery, Mission Intel Coordinator. Three of the critical members of Al-Shabab are meeting in the house of a man named Shahid Ahmed in the Nairobi suburb of Parklands. The house owner is an Al-Shabab facilitator.
The guest list includes Somali national Adbullah Al-Hady, and his radicalized wife of British origin Ayesha Al-Hady, (formerly Susan Helen Danford). The power couple ranks four and five in the East Africa Most Wanted List, and global intelligence has tracked them for six tedious years. Also present in the venue are two potential recruits, Muhammad Abdisalaam, an American with ties with extremists in Minnesota, and Rasheed Hamud, a British national. As Colonel Powell reminds them, the job is to capture the extremists and not kill them. Steve and Carrie become the titular eyes in the sky. But when the circumstances change, they must launch a missile or two, but at the risk of killing a little breadwinner.
Eye in The Sky Ending: Who is the Girl Named Alia?
The movie’s first scene reveals a girl called Alia Mo’Allim as she plays with a hula hoop in her backyard. She goes out to sell bread that her mother makes at the market. We do not know her role in the story until later. In the end, she becomes the subject of international concern without her knowing. The hula hoop brilliantly becomes a symbol of the endless bureaucratic loop that decides her life and death. The eyes initially target Shahid Ahmed’s house, but the Al-Hady couple does not turn up in the venue.
It turns out that the intel is only partially correct, as only Muhammad Abdisalem and Rasheed Hamud appear at Shahid Ahmed’s house. The car goes to the home of a Somali tradesman named Amadu Mukhtar. Drone footage reveals a woman wearing a black robe coming out of the car and rushing into the house. The officers suspect her to be Ayesha Al-Hady, but they can’t positively identify her before sending in an airstrike. Meanwhile, Steve Watts gets distracted by Alia playing with her hula hoop. He becomes emotional as he gets glimpses of a childhood thriving in a volatile and war-torn region.
On Powell’s orders, Kenyan Security Forces leader Moses arranges for a mechanized beetle to spy on the house at the risk of raising suspicion. Moses sends in a subordinate official, Jama Farah, who reaches the militia-controlled neighborhood of Amadu Mukhtar and ships in the beetle. The covert camera can ID Ayesha Al-Hady, and Powell gives the news to Frank Benson. While Lieutenant General Frank Benson thinks that the Reaper can do a very accurate job of eliminating the target from a distance, his bureaucratic associates seek to bring the extremist back into Britain to stand trial.
They also identify Abdullah Al-Hady in the scene, and navigating the other rooms, Ringo finds two suicide vests and a bunch of explosives. They are possibly planning to make a suicide video. Moreover, any attempt at capturing the terrorists may incite new violence. Under the unique circumstances, Attorney-General George agrees to initiate the attack. After some political tussle, all officials agree that eliminating the target will save many lives. However, their feelings change when Alia appears at the scene. As it turns out, she sells bread right in front of the house of Amadu Mukhtar.
Is Alia Dead or Alive?
Although the ministers initially greenlight the mission, the sight of Alia makes Steve hold the attack. They initially plan to buy the bread from Alia so that she can leave the premises before the airstrike. Jama Farah leaves his station to buy the bread, but a militant detects him as Kenyan. He abandons the bread, flees from the militants, and the rest hope that a miracle will save the girl.
When Steve cites his legal right to reassess CDC, Powell instructs her subordinate, Sadd, to fake the reports to a manageable chance of 45% fatality. Sadd carries out the orders, and Steve calls in the strike. After the first strike, they see Alia on the ground, severely injured but alive. Steve takes a sigh of relief, but they have to identify the bodies. As it turns out, Ayesha Al-Hady is still alive, and they have to go for another round of hellfire. Just before the second fire, Alia’s parents reach the scene and try to rescue her to safety.
But the second strike unsettles their hope, and they hop on a militant truck to go to the hospital. This act reinstates faith in humanity, but it is not enough to save Alia. We do not get to hear the conversation between Alia’s parents and the doctor. However, the parents break into tears over the immobile body of Alia shortly after. If we are to reassess the drone strike, we know it is indeed fatal for Alia. By the end of the movie, she is dead, while her death sparks off an ethical struggle in the viewer’s mind.
Read More: Is Eye in the Sky A True Story?