Saturday, January 16, 2016

QUEUE CLEANSING: Drones (2013)

                “Drones” is a movie that takes on the ethics of our new drone warfare in our war on terrorism.  This is becoming a subgenre a while back I watched the similarly themed “Good Kill”.  It’s nice to see that war movies can take on current warfare.  “Drones” was directed by Rick Rosenthal who also directed “Bad Boys”.  Something has happened to his career as “Drones” is decidedly on the other end of the budget spectrum.  Or maybe he was dedicated to making a statement about our controversial use of drones to assassinate terrorists (and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity).  This statement came with a low price tag as the movie takes place in a drone trailer and has a cast of basically two low rent actors.  The screenplay is based on a stage play by Matt Whitten, who also wrote the movie.

                The movie is set at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.  It takes place in real time.  Veteran drone pilot Jack (Matt O’Reilly) is introduced to Sue (Eloise Mumford) who is straight out of flight school.  When Jack asked why she “washed out”, Sue explains that it had to do with a detached retina.  It is also revealed that she is the daughter of a general.  Jack, on the other hand, is a typical airman who is from the video game generation.  She has to scold him for spending time playing a drone game.  He insists its part of training.  I bet the Air Force cooperated with this film as a recruiting tool. 

Jack and Sue discuss the role of conscience
in drone warfare
                Jack has been stalking a “high value” target named Khalil.  This will not be his first kill.  He is hardened to the job and counsels her to not think too much.  “A few fucked up dreams come with the territory”.   This is a reference to collateral damage associated with taking out the bad guys.  In this case, they are spying on a residence that includes women and kids.  Sue is squeamish about this which leads to a discussion of duty versus conscience.  The discussion becomes real when the suspect arrives.  Sue refuses to laze the target because of the civilians and questions whether Khalil is really a terrorist.  Their commanding officer is less than thrilled with this insubordination and insists that Sue get on board.  He orders Jack to physically get Sue on board, which does not go according to plan because earlier we were introduced to Sue, the boxer.  Since physical doesn’t work, perhaps psychology will.  Sue’s father general calls and informs her that Khalil killed her mother.  Well, he was involved with 9/11, which was how her mother died.  So now we have the other argument that justifies the duty argument – we need to stop them from doing it again.  Daddy is convincing, but now its Jack’s turn to question the mission.  Is this going to be Khalil’s last birthday party and the worst birthday party his family and friends ever attend?

                   “Drones” means well.  It takes on a topic that deserves discussion and covers the basic arguments in the debate.  The American public needs to hear out the debate and not just accept drone warfare without a peep.  However, the topic could be covered better by a better movie.  While competently acted by Mumford and O’Reilly, the movie comes off as low budget.  The effects emphasize this as the views from the drone give little impression that the drone is circling over the site.  The low budget is not insurmountable for a movie that is basically a play set in a trailer with two actors interacting, but the plot takes some twists that are hard to swallow.  It is also a very unrealistic take on the personnel who participate in drone warfare.  I would assume that Sue would have been “indoctrinated” before being placed in that setting.

                If you want to see a good movie on this topic, watch the much superior “Good Kill”.  But watch either one so you can be more aware of what is being done to protect America from the Khalils of the world.  Then you can have an educated opinion on whether the rules of engagement are righteous.



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