I had to drag The Boy to see this on the last day it was playing. He had seen a review snippet—I think played up by the movie people itself—from the New York Times where it said the movie raised important questions about drone warfare. Well, The Boy doesn’t cotton to that sort of thing, so he was worried he would hate it. As it turns out, the movie raises, literally, no new questions about warfare whatsoever. The simple premise here is the classic one: How many innocents is it okay to kill in the service of taking out an important target? In this case, the situation is very much more black-and-white: American and British military have located a terrorist in a house and, thanks to drones, they can directly see two splodey-dopes putting on their C4-filled vests.
Jackpot, right? They take out this house, they save lots of lives in the immediate future, to say nothing of the further mischief their primary targets (the ones arming the splodey-dopes, obviously) will almost certainly cause.
Here’s the catch, though: Just outside the house, a little girl is selling bread. And she will almost certainly die if they hit the house.
So, yeah, nothing new here. The question goes up and down the chain of command over and over as, naturally, the political types are more concerned about the optics of a dead child than the actuality of lots of dead people. The exception being the American Secretary of State who’s all “Why are you bothering me with this crap? Blow ’em up!” I’m afraid that’s more a stereotype than reality in the John Kerry era, though it’s clearly meant derogatorily.
It’s a very good movie, though. The Boy concurred, though he said he was pulling his hair out at all the vacillating. He particularly found the drone operators despicable. His point being that they joined the military, and when they joined the military, that constituted an agreement to kill people (even if it made them uncomfortable). There’s not a lot of moral ambiguity here: It’s a cinch a lot more innocent people will die, including children, but it does require a level of responsibility that I suspect isn’t easy to adopt. At the same time, you really accepted that responsibility when you signed up, right?
Great to see the late Alan Rickman, as always. Helen Mirren’s still a fine actress. Overall, the acting is quite good, if a little over-sensitive. If you really wanted to raise issues regarding drone warfare, you’d make the soldiers indifferent to the killing. I mean, that’s the argument, right? That people are too detached from the killing, so they do it casually? This actually reveals the opposite: You’re close to your target and you’re not in a firefight, and it begins to feel a lot like murder under those circumstances.
Directed by Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game, Tsotsi) and written by Guy Hibbert, it’s pretty much an hour-and-a-half of suspense and tension, to say nothing of frustration. The Boy was glad we went to see it, after all.