It’s not easy to turn more than an hour of not doing something into compelling drama, but director Gavin Hood mostly pulls it off in this intriguing morality play, as a joint British/American military operation to capture members of a terrorist cell in Kenya abruptly shifts focus to a possible drone strike when surveillance indicates that a suicide bombing is imminent. The narrative shifts between multiple participants—a British colonel (Helen Mirren); the American drone pilot (Aaron Paul); the Somali agent on the ground (Barkhad Abdi) operating the nifty beetle-shaped surveillance device—as well as a Kenyan girl who becomes the focus of concerns over collateral damage. And while it takes struggling through a sluggish first act to get to the meat of the conflict, Guy Hibbert’s script ultimately finds real tension in people trying to do the right thing and/or cover their asses, all from a safe distance. The characters may be little more than broad types, but it’s still darkly effective to show life-and-death decisions coming from politicians distracted by a bout with diarrhea, or deciding if winning the “propaganda war” is worth a few more fatalities.
Director: Gavin Hood
Producer: Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, David Lancaster, Xavier Marchand, Benedict Carver, Anne Sheehan, Claudia Bluemhuber, Guy Hibbert and Stephen Wright
Cast: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Iain Glen, Richard McCabe, Jeremy Northam, Phoebe Fox, Carl Beukes, Kim Engelbrecht, Aisha Takow and Lex King