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It’s not surprising that drone warfare has become a hot issue in film, their controversial use in real military action one that has left many divided on their effectiveness. While early films employed them as tools for success, recent productions have shifted focus on the aftermath, especially on the families of the innocents counted as collateral or worse, mistargeted.
With Drone, the precision by which pilots strike their targets is demonstrated early though not without its flaws and the repercussions of such lead both the survivor and the pilot of one strike into personal conflict. They are Imir Shaw (Patrick Sabongui), a Pakistani businessman who lost his family in an attack and Neil Wistin (Sean Bean), a CIA contracted drone pilot who pulled the trigger. And there ends mostly what Drone shares with others in the genre, becoming more of a home invasion story rather than a war morality tale as Shaw heads to Washington D.C. seeking revenge on the mild-mannered and often naive Wistin.
Co-written and directed by Jason Bourque, Drone is a character study disguised as a thriller with two men on opposite sides of the tragedy that stages the inevitable collision. We learn that Neil is troubled, with a cheating wife (Mary McCormack) and an ambivalent son (Maxwell Haynes) and while he is cool and calculated in the pilot’s chair, safe in the confines of station in the United States, he is a wavering and insecure man otherwise, wrestling with the recent loss of his father. The film centers on Imir’s ingratiation into the family under the pretense of buying a boat, even though he has already done much research on his targets prior, and while many of the conversations that fill the void between beginning and end are well-scripted, there are few moments of urgency that keep it on track. Worse, many of the subplots reach no real conclusion and feel unnecessary.
Further issues arise in pacing and character development with the dysfunctional family lumbering about in trope-ish platitudes, even if performed well by a good cast. The battle of wits is a set-up for the reveal and becomes verbally hostile as a dinner conversation spins slowly out of control. While the movie aims for emotional impact, ramping up the barbs between them, the film collapses in on itself the more it races for its end, even if it’s earnest in its message.
Too many moments are contrived in a film with big puzzle pieces that fit all too easily together, leaving little for the viewer to work out on their own, which is a disappointment only for how much potential is lost. With straight-forward scenes that attempt to prop up Imir’s plight, and a few awkwardly over-ripe acting moments in the finale, Drone loses air fast in an ending that is predictable before concluding in a last shot that tries to make heroes of both men.
Layered in an ominous hovering score that weighs heavy throughout, not all is bad here, with both Bean and especially Sabongui very good. They create a strong dynamic, even if the film eventually lets them down. A little too structured, a little too plotted, Drone is an ambitious disappointment.
Movie description: Drone is a 2017 thriller about drone pilot who works in secret facing the consequences of exposure for his action when he meets a Pakistani businessman.
Director(s): Jason Bourque
Actor(s): Sean Bean, Patrick Sabongui, Mary McCormack