The use of an unmanned military drones is ethically complicated, to say the least. As of now, the US Air Force has about 7,000 of them, all capable of launching missiles at the push of a button thousands of miles away from the target. It effectively de-personalizes the violence, turning war into video game. Air force officers can sit in the comfort of a military base in Nevada, striking at the lives of those halfway across the world. Yet it’s not something we think about much.
The short film Unmanned, which had its New York Premiere at Tribeca
last week, addresses the issue head on by telling the story of one such enlisted airman. Directed by Casey Cooper Johnson as his thesis film at the AFI, it was the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan development grant last week to be adapted into a feature. Perhaps equally exciting, the American political scientist P. W. Singer
has joined the project. The best-selling author, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on 21st century conflict, will collaborate on the script.
To go with this news, we’ve got a clip from the already award-winning short. Taken from the beginning of the film, these few minutes give us a glimpse of Jonah Wharton’s excellent performance. Remotely controlling one of these drones may keep the soldier far out of harm’s way, but it also seems to collapse the distance between suburban family life and the brutalities of combat. This particular nuance isn’t easy to get at, and with these few minutes you get an excellent sense of how Johnson arranges this strange and incongruous situation.