The introduction of drones into warfare is a sobering and terrifying prediction of what’s to come. Relatively safe within the confines of a US military base, a drone operator can obverse and report on the enemy in real time. They can also assassinate quickly, but perhaps, as this documentary from Tonje Hessen Schei points out succinctly, not so efficiently. In the effort to show whose army is the biggest, Drone points out the dangers of trying to be king of the castle. As one candid official wonders aloud during the course of the film, are some of the costs of drones outweighing the benefits?
With no added narration, Schei allows the subjects of his film to answer this question. Take, for example, Brandon Bryant, the drone operative suffering from PTSD and shunned by his peers for speaking out. Closer to the ground, there are the people of Waziristan, who have been rocked by the careless use of drones. That they look forward to cloudy days, when even the drones’ powerful telescopic lens is useless, speaks volumes. Hauntingly effective is Schei’s usage of headshots of those civilians who have died in drone raids, despite often having no connection to those originally targeted. Some old, many young, all of their deaths achingly pointless.
Yes, Drone clearly has an agenda, and sometimes that clouds its judgement. The documentary is quick to point out that the military funds computer games for training the next generation of soldiers. However, without explicitly stating who these companies are, the accusation sounds simply like something from The Last Starfighter. But with 89 countries reportedly owning their own drones, it’s hard to deny the film’s ultimate goal of opening up a public discussion about how we wish to be defended by our governments.