Private contractor Neil (Sean Bean) works as a drone operator performing strikes against terrorist targets for the CIA. His family, son Shane (Maxwell Haynes) and wife Ellen (Mary McCormack), are unaware of what he actually does for work. One year after a strike in Pakistan, Imir Shaw (Patrick Sabongui) arrives on Neil’s doorstep looking to buy his boat, but with news of classified documents revealing the names of contract workers for the government, it may be more than a boat that Imir is searching for.
Director Jason Bourque brings a solid, if somewhat expected thriller to life with Drone. Although a majority of his work is in television films, you would never know this was the case when it comes to Drone. The story, co-written by Bourque and Paul A. Birkett, keeps things relatively simple, placing the characters inside of Neil’s home for basically the entire movie. This gives the film a feeling of claustrophobia and terror that wouldn’t be achieved if everything had been placed anywhere else. Imir invades the home of Neil and his family, the one place where they can truly feel safe. This echoes the way in which civilians in areas where drone strikes occur would feel as well. That’s a key point to the film, and it’s something that is slowly driven home as the film moves towards a surprising ending.
It does take a little bit for the film to finally sink into a place of uncomfortable tension, as well as bringing together the various plot elements that are explored in the opening scenes. Not all of these opening moments feel necessary, but they do set up some visual similarities that are fascinating to watch. Neil’s drone follows a suspected terrorist as he drives through the streets, which is mimicked as we watch Ellen drive back to her home after work one day. It’s interesting to watch, but really sets up the terrible journey that Neil and his family are going to go through in the film. It also creates an impression of where we believe the film will wind up, which is cleverly flipped by the time we get there.
It’s the outstanding performances from Bean and Sabongui that really bring success to the film though. Drone works so well because of the convincing characters they build. As time passes, little bits of their characters are revealed. At times, these go against what we expect from what we’ve previously learned of them, while others show the characters that we were expecting. It helps keep viewers on their toes, but also keeps things realistic. Rarely are people always what we expect them to be, and the same can be said for Neil and Imir. McCormack and Haynes aren’t quite as lucky though. Ellen and Shane are rather typical, and even when we learn the few secrets they keep, it never adds anything to their characters. Neil and Imir morph as the film progresses, but Ellen and Shane simply continue to be exactly the same as they were in the beginning. It’s a bit of a shame that their characters couldn’t be as fully developed as the others, but it never holds the film back.