DRONE: 2 STARS. “adds little new to the conversation on the ethics of drone warfare.”
“Drone,” the new film from Vancouver director Jason Bourque, approaches the subject of drone warfare from a personal point of view. Unlike “Eye in the Sky,” a thriller that examined the legal, military, moral and political ramifications of an unmanned aerial vehicle bombing on high value targets in the war on terror, “Drone” places the story in a smaller world, the territory of a suburban private military contractors.
Neil (Sean Bean) is a family man, a concerned father who tenderly touches his troubled son’s shoulder with an offer to talk, “anytime you like.” His biggest worry is how to summarize his late father’s life into a eulogy. “It’s harder than I thought,” he says.
Like millions of others he’s a suburban husband who commutes to work to spend the day sitting in front of a computer. Unlike millions of others, from nine to five he rains down holy hell on unsuspecting enemies, dropping bombs from remote controlled drones.
It’s a good, safe office job until a hack reveals the names of many private drone operators, including Neil. The trouble he has been so careful to insulate himself and his family from becomes up close and personal when Karachi businessman Imir (Patrick Sabongui), convinced Neil is responsible for the deaths of his wife and child, comes to visit on the anniversary of their passing.
“In this videogame the victims are real,” Imir says. “They come home to their families after a long day of murder and put their children to bed. It’s easy to divorce what they do from real life consequences.”
“Drone” is an appropriate name for a movie that drones on at a glacial pace for much of its running time. The slow burn establishes Neil’s family dynamic, his grief over the loss of his father and the moments leading up to Imir’s revelation that his wife and child were “struck by a missile.” Using off kilter camera angles and low key, deliberate dialogue Bourque builds tension as Imir answers questions from Neil’s wife and son, both of whom are unaware of what dad does for a living.
Despite Bourque’s stylistic flourishes “Drone” is a psychological drama that, save for a hint of activity in its final moments, feels like it could have worked just as well as a stage play. Dialogue heavy, its all bark and very little bite leading up to an ending that is meant to be profound but overplays its hand. A twist here, a turn there and we’re left with a conclusion that adds little new to the conversation on the ethics of drone warfare.