Drones, fun for all the family, fly them around and see the world from a different perspective.

Flying them at high altitude, making them all but invisible, add “hellfire” missiles and military intent, they become a very different beast. Travelling up to 50,000ft above the ground they can deliver a missile with laser guided accuracy in @ 50 seconds.

Say you knew that “bad guys” we were planning an event, you could effectively neutralise this threat using a drone but civilian casualties would result.

Would you? would the “greater good” allow one innocent to die, maybe two or ten, how much “collateral damage” is acceptable?

Such is the premise for this ripped from the headlines thriller. For the purposes of this review, we will sidestep who or what constitutes “bad people” to be targeted. The film premises an unlikely scenario where all doubt about the target validity and location is removed. The target is within well defined and real-time visible cross-hairs, even rather implausibly within the building itself.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is the officer in charge, directing a multinational team. US airmen (Aaron Paul) flying the drone, a local agent on the ground in Kenya (Barkhad Abdi) and a raft of political types in London, hand held by Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman).

The crux of the film rests on the ability or not, to decide whether the attack should take place. Once the trigger is pulled “Rifle, rifle, rifle”, nothing can stop the attack, the missile has been unleashed and death and destruction will result.

The film centres on that decision, who decides, how do they balance the risks, rewards and legal implications of what the team are contemplating.

Despite an interesting premise this is very amateurish production. If the world truly works in this way we should be more even more anxious as to what is/is not carried out in our name. The film depicts the British political establishment as weak with decisions constantly deferred upwards.

One would hope those charged with protecting our safety would perform their jobs more professionally than displayed here. Despite the strong cast, the acting is weak due to poorly defined characters, with much hand wringing and any tension squandered at almost every opportunity.

It is disappointing as this is one of Rickman’s last films, he is relegated to sighing and protesting at political vacillation, whilst Mirren normally so convincing, just gets more frustrated by the minute. Nothing in the film feels real. The war room, Whitehall, terrorist target and even the actions of the drone pilots.

Stilted stage like direction and mediocre special effects do not help the audience to suspend disbelief.

The purpose of the film is debatable, the ethics are muddled, extreme liberal sensibilities one moment, hawkish US behaviour the next. If our military and political leaders cannot make decisions based on the clear cut evidence in this “black/white” scenario, god help us all when the inevitable  shades of grey are introduced.

See also Ethan Hawkes little seen “Good Kill” for a flawed but more realistic look at drone warfare.

Summary

Disappointing, what could have been a tense thriller or a much needed intelligent look at drone warfare and the ethics involved or ideally both, manages to be neither.

A poor use of the talent involved and waste of an interesting premise, a drone movie in the true sense.