Director: Gavin Hood
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
Given how the bureaucracy works - in which approval resided within a string of bureaucrats rather than a single individual, it paints a fascinating picture of government at work, without approving or rejecting its function. Colonel Powell is determined to strike right away, serving as the narrative’s hawk, and refreshingly flipping gender conventions in the process. She has a team of computer whizzes at her fingertips, who can use sophisticated algorithms to determine the probability of certain casualty rates. Push the bomb a little bit more to the rear and the building’s structure might limit collateral damage.
The entire mission is supervised by a lawyer who's determined to give a thumbs or down as to what is or is not within Powell's command. On account of the mission being originally intended for reconnaissance, striking demands higher approval, in which we watch as the Prime Minister (who’s not a prime minister), his cabinet, and the General debate the merits of the case. While everyone understands the utility of sacrificing a girl in order to save a greater number, some are a bit more realistic with the politics. This is the type of story that goes national, no matter the logic, especially with the increased discussion of drone strikes. With the thick opinions, the issue then has to be elevated even higher, forcing them to track down the Foreign Secretary who’s on a business trip and just came down with a terrible case of food poisoning. While a bit ridiculous at first, it soon adds another brilliant layer of reality. What’s food poisoning in this situation could just as easily have been poor cell phone reception, a business meeting, or the myriad of other possibilities that prevents an easy resolve; that is, like the calculated probability, a higher number of people with a say increases the possibility that other unknown variables are going to interfere.
Beyond the British or American bureaucracies is Watt’s hesitancy in carrying out the mission. It was here that I was a bit disappointed that they’ve honored this new and recent trend in films offering far too much emotion from characters, as though the struggle requires such strong histrionics. Yes, I understand it was difficult to pull the trigger when it could mean a little girl’s life, I just think that it could have been far more internalized and been just as effective.
Still, the mission shows that no matter how removed governments are, there are opportunities for them to understand what they’re doing. Too often it’s easy to criticize situations of this sort and immediately pass judgment, never knowing what was actually at stake, or what could have happened if the mission wasn’t carried out. Although the emotion was thick, perhaps it was needed in order to convey that whether in a plane or a shed, those following through with the orders do, in fact, grasp what they’re doing. No computer screen is powerful enough to detach them.
In the end, as the girl ends up killed from the explosion’s impact, I wondered why they would have decided on such a definitive ending. It seemed strangely political for a story that was trying to remain neutral. I thought it might work better if we just saw her on the bed, never knowing what happened, leaving them all to wonder. With the girl dying and ending the film shortly after, you can’t help feeling like the mission was wrong - even though you know that it was all for the best. Maybe that was the point.
The bureaucracy worked in this instance, no matter the delay, but it leaves you wondering when it could have an adverse effect. What if they couldn’t receive word in time and the suspects left and killed thousands? What if they decided against killing the girl, no matter the consequences; that human emotion was able to obfuscate the greater mission? I think it worked - this time - and it all goes to show just how complicated these issues are. People want to criticize Obama’s drone warfare, never taking into account the things they may not know. Inevitably tragedies happen, and yes if they happened to my family I’d be equally livid, and maybe targeted killings aren’t really the best way to solve them, but that’s how it’s being done now. It leaves you hoping that each mission like this receives the same level of deliberation. I’m just not sure it does. While writing this entire passage I’ve flipped my mind a dozen times, and that’s what makes a great film.
BELOW: Alan Rickman's final speech in his final live action film
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