The politics, legality and ethics of drone attacks could not be more relevant and topical these days, so it’s surprising that more films haven’t been made exploring such themes (or perhaps not surprising that Hollywood doesn’t want to pick at such an open wound, given the USA’s deeply questionable behaviour in this field). A combination of British money (this is the first film made by actor Colin Firth’s production company Raindog Films) and South African director Gavin Hood (who has struggled with more mainstream work since his Academy Award-nominated breakthrough Tsotsi) has allowed the subject to be broached here, and even if it doesn’t quite go into as much depth as the material warrants, it’s still a well-crafted and highly engrossing thriller for the most part.

It’s essentially a morality tale about the balance between liberty and security, and it questions to what extent collateral damage is an acceptable risk. Nowhere near as bombastic or overblown as many films of its type usually are, it’s an unusually cerebral affair, allowing a strong cast (including a fine swan song for the now sadly departed Alan Rickman) to argue both sides of the moral arguments the film throws up. The amount of technical sophistication is perhaps slightly overdone, but it can’t be long before such levels of surveillance are commonplace, and the film gets away with it by maintaining an admirably apolitical stance, drawing no comfortable conclusions about the often farcical realities of modern warfare.

A timely examination of a deeply controversial and under-reported aspect of modern warfare8
A non-American film daring to tackle subject matter Hollywood doesn't seem to want to talk about9
Some slightly exaggerated levels of technology on display5
An otherwise very clear-headed and fair approach to the thorny subject matter8
It's deeply sad that we won't be hearing Alan Rickman's voice again7
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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