The movie starts in the slums of Pakistan where a drone missile kills a few and then the movie moves into pristine United States where the aftermath is dealt with. This movie, Drone, seems like a sequel to the movie, Eye in the Sky. Where ‘Eye in the Sky’ ends with a Drone Kill, ‘Drone’ starts with a Drone Kill.
‘Drone‘ has very poor ratings. A 5.4 on IMDb and paltry 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. But a closure look on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes show that people liked and disliked the movie for several reasons, some of which, I too, agree.
For one, the movie is ‘pretty’ well made. Besides a few Missile Explosions, the major duration of the story is calm. There is dysfunctional family on one side and a desperado on the other and through several series of events there is a meeting of two side and two cultures but with multiple individual motivations.
Every character in the movie is accomplished. But only individually. An incident in a children’s playground is aptly filmed. The dinner table conversation is handled very well and one can see, feel and hear, the forced conversation and false attentions. This meeting then builds up into a climax where ‘more than two actors have to interact on-screen’ and it’s here the performances falter and becomes theatrical.
The director did not reach for the full potential as was possible. The movie has an alien culture in an american home with ambiguous motivation. The director could have displayed more of this dichotomy. This contrast of two cultures had some deep stories to tell. Instead the movie skims. It just settled with ‘one slurp’ of coffee.
Just imagine, the director has a “Pakistani” in an American home and the character is shown eating with forks. The movie had started with Pakistanis eating with their hands, so, why not continue with the same theme? Make the Pakistani eat with his hands, slurp tea from a plate than a cup and “don’t give him wine.” The culture differences could have been displayed on the table, while eating, drinking, not using napkins, and these would have added to the scene depth without impacting the duration of the movie; the character is anyways eating and drinking on an American table, so make him do all those things like a Pakistani. And to add to the eeriness, why not make the Pakistani do Namaz inside the American’s house.
The story could have ended well too. In the end the Pakistani is stabbed. This is lazy storytelling. Why not make him live? To atone for the American’s sins of killing the Pakistani’s family, the American should have taken the Pakistani’s side for once, made him aware of the dangers outside the house, played a game of camaraderie and sent away the Pakistani with the boat. But for this, some changes to the script has to be done, like; ‘The Pakistani is an unknown ordinary person working in IT in US who, due to data leak, chances upon an address of a Drone Contractor who may have killed his family.’
There has been several movies where the story is enacted in one house or one room. Alien/s in an enclosed space gives a feeling of being cornered and is a brilliant setting for a nail biter; someone enters the house and gradually unravels the motivations and each passing moment builds up to a climax. Needless to say, this requires expert handling by the Director. A good Director can change screenplays without impacting the story. A good case is the movie, “Erin Brockovich” (2000). If you care, watch the movie and read the script. It’s an eye opener on what good Directing is all about.
Few movies of this genre which I know are; Yash Chopra’s Ittefaq (1969), Audrey Hepburn starrer ‘Wait Until Dark‘ (1967), Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Kaun?‘ (1999), Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla‘ (1986). Having watched these movies, when I approach “Drone”, I see a lost potential. But it’s good to encounter such movies now and then, as, just like life, troughs and crests in movie watching makes one appreciate the values and qualities of the good.