VOD film review: Drone
James R | On 20, May 2015
Director: Tonje Hessen Schei
Cast: Shahzad Akbar, Brandon Bryant, Michael Haas
Watch Drone online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Apple TV (iTunes) / Google Play
Militainment. It’s a word you might associate with a Michael Bay blockbuster, but the documentary Drone proves just how real the blurring between the military and entertainment world has become. While people sit at home playing computer games, soldiers are piloting automated killing machines above their heads.
It’s a relatively young form of warfare in the history of human conflict, one that has already sparked political and ethical debates. Tonje Hessen Schei’s film hovers over the big picture, landing on both sides of the fence.
It’s perhaps telling that it took a Norwegian director to examine the rise of drone killings, particularly by the American army. But the documentary maker secures access to contributors that deliver proverbial bombshells on his audience. One contributor – Brendon Bryant – is a former US operator of the machines. His interviews reveal the unease felt while flying the armed craft, before we take a closer look at Waziristan, a region that has been the most heavily bombed in recent years.
“These were people enjoying themselves,” he says of targeting a family celebration, “but someone in that wedding was a bad person.”
It’s the kind of dilemma that has been dramatised on screen in everything from Homeland to the recent Andrew Niccols’ film Good Kill, starring Ethan Hawke. But there is something chilling about the blunt reality portrayed here, which is heightened by spokespeople for the other side of the argument. “If you’re going to have a warrior, give him what he needs,” says an engineer, as we discover how drones first were invented – not for fighting, but for fishing.
If the moral uncertainty unsettles (you “never see a face”, notes one, “you have a silhouette”), it’s the overall militarisation of America’s society that sticks with you: a world where young men think war is fun and middle-aged men think of it as business. The relationship between the military and computer game copyrights, as their relationship inserts this new method of war into everyday psyche, is truly disturbing.
The movie’s presentation is straightforward – one shot reveals a sea of computers, laid out like a city block, housing people playing Call of Duty-like simulators – but the simple sight of an unmanned drone flying through the sky is enough to make you look nervously above you. Militainment in action.