Looking at that movie poster, you could certainly be forgiven for expecting explosions and secret missions and hand to hand combat and all that, but action fans will in fact be gravely disappointed here, unless your idea of action is a dramatic reading of Book VIII of Plato’s Republic. While an American drone hovers over a house in Nairobi where suicide bombers are readying an attack, American and British military officers, lawyers, and politicians conduct a lengthy debate over the rules of engagement. The trouble, you see, is that a cute little girl is selling bread just outside the house, within the blast radius.
The movie goes to great pains to exhaust all sides of the debate. Unfortunately, the conversation is both predictable and unrealistic. How do we balance the certain loss of one innocent with the probable loss of many more? That’s the question the grownups keep asking each other. An oldie but a goodie. Trouble is, I don’t believe for a second that these people would actually be having this conversation in this situation; in real life that missile would have been fired before I’d even started on my popcorn. But OK, if this is more of a morality play than a realist fiction, that’s fine, but in that case, why not go all the way and actually have people explore this issue in a more complex and surprising way? Is it really the case that the only choices are to kill a little or be killed a lot?
Earnest and well-intentioned but not as provocative as it could have been.