Ethan Hawke’s conscience-stricken air force major flew fighter planes in Iraq; now he pilots unmanned drones targeting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The greatest physical danger he and his colleagues face half a world away in an air-conditioned cubicle in the Nevada desert is carpal tunnel syndrome or a hot coffee spill. War for them is now a first-person shooter, as their commander (a sardonic Bruce Greenwood) observes.
But the anguish etched on Hawke’s face reveals the psychological toll of blowing up flesh and blood, not pixels.
Reuniting Hawke with Gattaca director Andrew Niccol, this probing and provocative drama has in its sights the collateral damage wrought by the West’s war on terror.
Niccol does rather belabour the points he is putting across, and his script is overly schematic. Visually, however, his film hits the target.
The drone’s eye-view of the attacks feels shockingly authentic, while overhead shots of Hawke’s desert home – strikingly similar to the Taliban compounds 7,500 miles away – reminds us that these antagonists are closer than they think.