AFI Fest: Drones (★★★)


The ‘Drones‘ screening starts with a short film about the tensions in the Middle East that the feature was inspired by. Then followed the actual feature film written by Matt Witten and directed by Rick Rosenthal. In the feature, Eloise Mumford is featured as Sue Lawson and Matt O’Leary as Jack Bowles. This is definitely a story most people appreciate because of the human morals questioned and the military way of getting things done.

Drones 2013 film

Sue is masculine and very proud of her abilities. Aiming to only be in the air force, she follows the rules to the T, without questioning it. Jack, her partner on the drone surveillance, is fun, calm, and easy going. Right off the bat, Jack’s main objective is to not over think and just do what they are told to. So, when Sue identifies a target and is ordered to kill, despite the number of civilians, she hesitates. In the twenty minutes that things happen, the roles are reversed and the situation turned around in an unexpected way. Life changes and shifts, never still and the outcome feels inevitable.

Mumford’s acting was brilliant. From the cold stoic and aloof Lieutenant to the uncertain and emotional killer, she brings the audience into the world of being a drone operator, and her annoyance with her partner Jack, played by O’Leary, is understanding. O’Leary, every bit the funky character that is needed to break the tension. The two don’t seem to get along at first, but as the situation changes, their characters come together to finish the job. Not only do they seem natural in their roles, but they look the part and are as gutsy as they have to be.

Drones 2013 film colorThe production design is simple and easy to understand. Where the world of these drone operators are small and they must live in a small room until their shift is up, away from civilization and other humans, the space must be comfortable and calm. Although it gets stuffy with a broken air conditioning unit, the rans help with the otherwise silent and claustrophobic space. The colors inside the room were blue and dim, with red at the highest points of tension. Outside, there’s the hot sun and the overwhelming heat of the desert. Those are two very different feels and looks, but all existing in one world. The production design was classy and practical, and each piece of information about the two main characters was well put together based on what they wore, how they were introduced, and how they ended up at the end of the film.

Not only was it great to watch with careful camera angles and great shots to move the story along, the music was well put together. Everything about the sounds in this film was detailed and specific. Deserving more credit than most would think necessary, ‘Drones‘ is a film that everyone of all ages should watch because of the content and choices presented that truly test what the person is made of. Also, the question of whether or not the use of drones is necessary or fair in this war is also presented because of the emotions attached to the characters in the film. With the advancement of technology, and the growing tensions of terrorism and the like, this film represents both pro-and anti-drone uses, which is an interesting argument still relevant in today’s society.

Interestingly enough, the man I sat next to was amiable and kind, and at the end of the film, revealed that he was the writer of the film. Luckily I enjoyed the whole film and let him know it. There are some bits and pieces that could have been elaborated on especially when it came to the relation Lawson had with terrorists and the importance of the engraved jewelry was, also a bit more information about Jack could have helped, but the story was well conceived and put together otherwise. So, for all you film festival goers out there, chat with your neighbors because you never know who they might be!