The IMDB genre-classifiers put this movie in "Drama, Thriller, War"
categories, although there aren't that many thrills. And, geez, "Comedy"
wouldn't be that farfetched, because … well, let me explain.
Helen Mirren plays no-nonsense
British Colonel Katherine Powell who has long sought
to take homegrown terrorist Susan Danford off the board. (Susan's
organization has just brutally killed one of Katherine's undercover operatives,
which only serves to heighten Katherine's eagerness.) Years of surveillance have
paid off, as Susan is tracked to a small house outside of Nairobi. A
drone with a couple Hellfire missiles awaits above. Even better: a
couple more high-ranking bad guys are spotted! And making things more
urgent, a tiny beetle-sized flying camera has spotted a couple of
suicide vests being prepared for an imminent operation!
So, blammo, they take out the house, movie over in 15 minutes, right?
Wrong. These sorts of operations need signoffs, especially when the
original plan was to capture Susan and bring her back to England
for trial. Complicating matters: the house is in a crowded marketplace
area, and there could be significant "collateral damage", i.e.
not-particularly-terroristic men, women, and children getting blown up.
So there's literally a worldwide discussion between Katherine in
Surrey, a civilian/military committee in London (including
Alan Rickman in his last movie), drone operators in
Nevada, the Secretary of State in China, a spy on the ground in Nairobi,
and more. Options are endlessly weighed, arguments about collateral
damage vs the risk of not being able to stop the suicide bombers
are made. The buck-passing approaches comic levels; a little
have made this into Dr. Stranglove for our terroristic age.
But (sorry for the spoiler) the
Gun rule applies: you don't put Hellfire missiles in your movie
unless you're gonna blow something up eventually.
Here's what I liked: the movie itself doesn't seem to take sides between
the hawks and doves. Both are allowed to trot out their best arguments,
and neither is presented as either evil or incorrect. (Alan Rickman's
final speech is particularly powerful. I'm really going to miss that
And, oh yeah: Danny from Caddyshack is now the US Secretary of
State. I'm glad that he finally made something out of his life.