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Not too many movies really make me think. This one did.
I don't know what motivated the people that made this film, but their work stuck me much deeper than I expected.
The main characters are two soldiers in a military installation where they are assigned to man a drone spy plane. They are searching for the "enemy" and when they find one the drone is equipped with weapons to "take them out." That's their job; find 'em and kill 'em. All with the push of a button.
Causing collateral damage (killing innocent civilians) is supposed to be just another part of the job. After all, the good outweighs the bad because the people they kill, will themselves kill even more innocents - think 911 - if they're not stopped.
This is a new form of warfare. In the "old days" you just dropped a bomb from the sky and never saw the people you incinerated. But now, super high definition cameras display the faces of the people you are about to turn into human hamburger on your computer monitor; up close and personal.
The drone team think they have spotted a super enemy. A high ranking member of the Al-Qaeda that is a must kill. There's only one problem: there are a house full of innocents at the same location. This includes women and children; even a baby.
Conscience begins to surface. Do they kill a dozen innocents to get this one enemy, or not? Think about what you know of Nazi soldiers who explained their actions by saying they were "just following orders."
The find and kill operation takes two people to complete. One cannot fire the kill shot without the other being in compliance. Listen to the kill or don't kill conversation between our two soldiers. Ask yourself the same questions that they ask. What would you do?
Don't get me wrong. I support the military. I am grateful for the men and women that have made the decision to; if necessary, lay down their lives to defend and protect this country. That means your life, my life, and the lives of all the people we know and love. Many heroic men and women have already laid down their lives in the service of their country. They deserve to be honored, they deserve our respect, they deserve our gratitude. They have mine.
But this film raises moral questions about how we fight Al-Qaeda that did not exist when we fought our enemies of the past. Push button warfare. How much "collateral damage" is acceptable? Is it acceptable at all? Is there a point of depreciating returns where we become as bad; or even worse than our enemies?
Take a look at the IMDb listing of the "stars" of this film. See who is ranked first, second and third. There is a reason for it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the first movie I've seen, or even heard about, that focuses
entirely on military drone operators and their distant targets. Yes,
there are lots of contrivances and manipulations, as well as
misogynistic tones to the film, but I thought the filmmakers maintained
a good deal of tension throughout and there are plenty of twists and
I don't know if there is a specific agenda here or what the exact rules-of- engagement are for military drone strikes, but as noted by two reviewers before me on this site, the movie made me think as the drama unfolded and various concepts were presented on either side of the drone attacks, which I believe will be debated for many years to come.
Eloise Mumford stars as Lt. Sue Lawson, who's on her first day at her job as a military drone console operator, at Creech Air Force Base, in Nevada. She's the daughter of a 4 star general, a trained boxer, and was "top stick" at the Air Force Academy before a detached retina forced her out of the skies.
Matt O'Leary co-stars as Airman Jack Bowles, who's the more experienced of the two. He's the pilot at the drone controls, and has already had 23 successful "target prosecutions" over the past 11 months.
The movie is almost entirely focused on their one shift to track a suspected terrorist Mahmoud Kahlil, in Afghanistan, and eliminate him with a missile strike. With Kahlil's parent's home being surveilled, it becomes apparent that Kahlil should be joining them and other family members for his birthday.
However, as the tension mounts for a possible strike, a rift develops between Lt. Lawson and Airman Bowles which threatens the whole operation, despite direct orders from a supervising Colonel. As mentioned, this will lead to various dramatic twists and will escalate into a startling and disturbing ending.
In summary, I thought the director Rick Rosenthal, as well as writer Matt Whitten, maintained good pacing throughout as well as a strong sense of realism. I feel this film will be controversial for many, as it raises a number of questions about drone strikes currently being used by the military.
There might be admittedly a deeper message in this movie - but the way
it is presented (cover etc) one might wait for an action/war movie.
Instead your getting a discussion between two very dull characters sitting in a container, watching a video screen - in feature length. Under pretense of coolness the actors try (and fail) to transport any kind of feeling/reaction.
No action whatsoever, this seems to be some kind of no-budget movie which isn't even very ambitious. The storyline is so predictable that one could stop watching after 10 minutes without missing anything.
If I had watched this in cinema, I would have left after half an hour.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm guessing the folks that made this movie are impressed with
themselves for having the nerve to deal with such a timely and deep
moral issue. Should they take the shot? The writers created a very
provocative scenario that forces the choice of killing non-combatants
along with the terrorist or letting the terrorist go. A long debate
ensues where the characters agonize over whether to take the shot. The
story's scenario is fantasy, the actions of the crew are inexcusable,
and the "dilemma" faced by the crew isn't new or timely.
1. The scenario where they have to shoot because the relief aircraft was diverted is unlikely at best. They are flying in a combat zone. The diverted aircraft is the only asset available in the entire area? There are no ground units, manned aircraft or unmanned aircraft from other serves available to delay the shot until the target is clear of non-combatants? If the target is that important, they would have found something somewhere to provide coverage.
2. Members of the armed services usually do not have the luxury to debate the morals of lawful orders, and they are never given the option to ignore them. The chain of command would never have tolerated a junior officer and an enlisted airman ignoring orders for that long. If they were feeling generous, I guess they may have allowed one "I can't do it" but the idea of senior officers trying to reason and begging for a lieutenant and an enlisted airman to act is fantasy. This would be especially true with a high value asset like the unmanned systems. The security forces would have quickly appeared to provide a replacement crew.
Military members are not given the option to ignore lawful orders. They are often not provided with why orders are given, and this still doesn't allow them to ignore the order. Requiring the chain of command to provided detailed explanations for every order would be ungainly and pointless. Sometimes obeying an order is a bit of an act of faith that the chain has access to information on which it is basing the order.
3. The "dilemma" faced by the unmanned aircraft crew is not new. War is violent, destructive and weapons often hit noncombatant targets. Aerial bombing and artillery are obvious examples. It mystifies me why so many have the impression that flying a plane remotely somehow changes the dynamics of the process. Bomber pilots didn't ride their bombs to the targets, they lined a building up in a site and pushed a button. Artillery crews set angles to their guns, set the fuse, add that charge and yank a lanyard. As for the watching a target die, infantryman and snipers have been doing it for centuries.
In the unlikely scenario presented in the movie, would the scenario have been less of dilemma if the unmanned aircraft hadn't been able to take the shot and something more conventional had been used to kill the terrorist? Would artillery or missile fired from a manned aircraft have resulted in fewer deaths? Or if an infantry unit had been used, would the terrorist have surrendered simply because he was near children? What if the terrorist was still killed, but managed to kill an U.S. soldier or two? Or what if he had been allowed to escape because he was near non-combatants. Would the morality of refraining from the shot justly any US soldiers or other local non-combatants he later killed? Even in the movies' unlikely and unpleasant scenario, the unmanned aircraft allowed the threat to be eliminated without exposing friendly forces to danger.
War always poses many moral questions to our nation, our government and our armed forces and these questions should be asked and explored. This movie makes up an irrelevant and unlikely situation, deals with it in a completely implausible way, and the only moral dilemma it creates is why the characters were allowed to behave badly for as long as they did.
The movie for me was very good and interesting. Strange there are not more like this. I expect it may be to fear of retaliation. This is a very sensitive issue with our own citizen and other countries also. Only real problem was the sound quality and loudness, it was atrocious. I would give the sound engineers a zero. It was very hard to hear the dialog without turning up the volume. Problem then is the background sound and effects are unbearable. Too loud to hear the dialog. So what I ended up doing was constantly turning the volume up and down. The movie theaters are even worst in this regard. To wrap up the movie I would say it needs more attention to sound and add more characters. The ones outside could have built a second story line. would be very good if they had better quality control over sound.
Not an action movie!
I tend to like movies with onion layers to their central conflict, and this one did have them. It was not well written or acted though. Echoing the opening scene of WarGames, the movie explores the well- trodden dramatic area of 'orders versus morality' found so often in movies such as A Few Good Men.
Better Dialogue, character development, and acting would add to this and crank up the tension. The perfect soldier (trainee) was difficult to believe as having moral qualms. The fundamental difference between warfare with piloted versus drone aircraft (in harm's way) was all but ignored with more of a focus on collateral damage. Well, F22's kill innocents too, so I have trouble understanding why the trainee has reservations. Assuming her strong education, not only in the military, but in theories of war and government, she should have come to grips with "following orders" long before she was put into this situation. The senior pilot (trainer) was a reasonable 1-dimensional character as the pizza- eating, video-gaming pilot that had no care in the world. The character growth and changes in point of view during the movie is sudden and slightly inexplicable. Additionally, the contact with the chain of command and the lack of support from the military for this pair of drone pilots was unbelievable.
As all of the action takes place in a desert trailer, this movie would be better-suited to a stage presentation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I spent twenty years in the army as an infantryman and combat
helicopter pilot. This movie does hit very well on the ethical dilemmas
that can be found on the battlefield and in this case above it. These
people are like modern day snipers who looks through a high powered
scope and can see clearly the faces and activities of those they're
about to pull the trigger on.
The flaws, it does take some time to develop the story-line, but the payoff was worth it. The box cover has nothing at all to do with the movie.
The pluses, this movie is a great example of how humanity may step in and make the job of "make contact and destroy" a much more difficult thing to do for some to do than others. No one expects these people to behave like the robots they're controlling, and in reality in the position of the drone operators, they are versed heavily in rules of engagement. As a team member operating a predator or reaper this possibility would have been covered before she was put in that command unit. There are times when they have to wait for the target to be in a position which would afford the ability to eliminate collateral damage. The principle of ground warfare today is that we do everything possible to limit civilian casualties, but as it's a war zone, there is absolutely no way to eliminate it completely. Some take solace in the fact that the technology they've demonstrated in the movie has caused much fewer civilian casualties than any other conflict in history along with keeping friendly casualties to a minimum. In reality, should this degree of an officers conscious present itself during a drone mission, one or both operators would have been relieved immediately. For the sake of plot, the fact that the woman was a generals daughter I'm assuming that's why it didn't happen immediately to allow her the opportunity to follow orders and not be disgraced as these missions are highly classified and likely would not have been exposed to the scrutiny of her peers in the air force or the public.
I felt that the writing was pretty good except for the turn of events from her partners guilt at the end. Other than that my opinion was that it was a very good movie showing an officer who's moral difficulties in performing the job should have kept her out of that position in the first place. The acting was good in the fact that the conversations between Bowles and Lawson was exactly what I've experienced after 20 years in combat arms, especially the cavalier attitude of the airman. There are two facts in wars, (1) innocent people do die and (2) you can't stop innocent people from dying. His acceptance in that allowed him to do the job without the emotional toll the job was taking would not affect his ability to do his duty. He obviously had to deal with the death of innocent people his previous strike had caused but tried to play it off as sh*t happens or "the greater good".
These missions are highly complicated matters which requires a great deal of patience as well as keeping an accurate account of the smallest of information observed to be reported and processed in the higher echelons of the organization which was demonstrated quite well. They did a really good job.
This movie shows two people in a room staring at monitors observing a terrorists house via drone cam. They talk a lot of bullshit, the airman guy tries to be as nerdy as can be, the female lieutenant is the emotional part and has pangs when the kill order finally comes. The setting is unbelievable, I don't know if a military drone control station looks like this, but I just can't believe it. Neither can I believe that the personnel is behaving like this, neither the immature guy nor the over-sensitive girl.The plot is so thin, you can't make yourself watch this. I had to fast forward through it. Nothing changes, except that the female officer takes off here uniform blouse towards the end, smacks the airman in the head and finally shoots the missile herself, killing the terrorist and his two kids. This was an awful movie. Good intentions, I'm sure, but it had a budget of probably $1000 and the writer should try another profession. No drama, no tension, no dilemmas or real ethical issues.
This modern military drama reminded me of By Dawn's Early Light and Lebanon. In all three, we watch a military crew in charge of a combat vehicle who have some serious decisions to make based on limited evidence. The consequences for not using deadly force could be just as disastrous as using it, to potential casualties and also to the careers and even the freedom of the actors involved. In all 3 films, we are limited to only seeing and knowing what the people in the bomber, the tank, or in this case the drone control shed can see and hear. The atmosphere becomes ever more intense as the consequences of their choices become less and less possible to avoid. There are some technical shortcomings to the film, such as background music that often overpowers the actors' voices. I was still quite impressed with the plausibility of the situation, even if the exact circumstances of the setting are an extreme example of brinkmanship and interpersonal conflict that could most likely only appear in a script. The dialog is authentic enough to pass muster. There are no obvious plot holes, and both characters seem to be trying their very best to do the right thing ethically while considering the awful, irreversibly life altering consequences of being wrong. Worth seeing and worth thinking about, because war is always messy and soldiers will always have to make life and death decisions based on disturbingly incomplete knowledge.
First - Never judge a book by it's cover.. how true.. Cover show combat
soldier with drones above his head.. no combat, no ground soldiers, no
drones shown... just two Air Force Soldiers in a Box...
This was suspenseful if one is to believe that even the low standards of some recruiters, that two people with no military fiber, discipline to even common sense would be place in a position requiring quick action and understanding of mission.
The only thing I can think of is that this story was written by someone with no military history in his life. This made the scenario, hopefully, very unrealistic. Saying that; the suspense was fairly good if these two idiots would carry out the mission...
NOT AN ACTION MOVIE as the DVD/Blu-Ray cover shows... just a suspense drama... as such, about half marks 4.5 to 5 stars..
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