Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Drones (DVD Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 30.01.2015

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Drones (DVD Movie Review)

Drones (UK Rating: 15)

April sees the arrival in the UK of military drama, Good Kill, starring Ethan Hawke in a role a world away from Boyhood. He plays a drone pilot questioning the morality of his job. Before it gets here, though, the warm-up act has just arrived on DVD in the lower-budget shape of Drones, available now on general release.
Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Drones (DVD Movie Review)
In a sweltering hot container on a military base in the Nevada desert, two soldiers sit in front of screens, operating a drone in Afghanistan that is monitoring the hide-out of a high profile terrorist suspect. One is an experienced operative who is outranked by the other, the ambitious daughter of a highly-respected general. They watch the man they believe to be their target, but he's not the only person in the house: there are women and children, and the soldiers start to question their orders to kill.

The film is essentially a two hander: there's one-time pilot Bowles (Matt O'Leary) who is constantly reminded that he would prefer to be back in the cockpit by the roar of the planes overhead, and then there's Sue Lawson (Eloise Mumford), struggling with her first day on the job but never afraid to remind Bowles - or anybody else - of who her father is. There's the occasional interruption from voices over their headsets and an increasingly irritated Colonel and Lawson's own father, both via screens, but the focus is very much the two soldiers and their dilemma.

They change places regularly, one wanting to disobey orders, then the other. Their motivations may be different - should they kill civilians, including the children, is the man on the screen really the terrorist they are after - but they are still struggling with the ethics of their situation. The fact that they can clearly see the faces of the people at the other end of the camera makes their respective reservations even stronger. As a debate about the morality of drone warfare, though, which is clearly what the film is meant to be, it's simplistic and disappointingly leaden. In fact, it's more like one of the videogames that Bowles uses as part of his training.

The setting inside the container is decidedly claustrophobic, which means the movie is well suited to the small screen, although it lacks the sweatiness that should be there as well. Not just because of the inherent tension of the situation, but because both soldiers complain of being hot and don't show a single sign of it.

Interestingly, the film is also shot in real time, which should help to build the tension even further, but it only really comes into its own in the final frames.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Drones (DVD Movie Review)
Rated 5 out of 10


The double act at the centre of Drones give the film their best shot (no pun intended) but they are hampered by a leaden script and a lack of attention to detail. The only real tension comes towards the end of the film, instead of building gradually, and, ultimately, it's like watching a live action videogame with a moral debate thrown in for good measure. Sadly, the film hardly scratches the surface of what should be a thought-provoking subject.

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