Good Kill (2015) Film Review from the 14th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Andrew Niccol, starring Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Jake Abel, Bruce Greenwood, Kristen Rakes, Akshay Patel, Stafford Douglas, Dylan Kenin, Michael Sheets, Alma Sisneros, Bill Seward, Stephen M. Hardin, Rich Chavez, and Sachie Capitani.
Good Kill depicts war in a different type of combat zone, with the battle forming in America without crossing any borders. Ethan Hawke plays Major Thomas Egan, a U.S. Air Force drone pilot who spends 12 hours a day at a base in Las Vegas remotely bombing terrorist cells in the Middle East. It’s a job that allows him to spend half his time on base and the other half with his wife and kids. Despite not being in the actual battlefield, Thomas begins to experience posttraumatic stress disorder, which affects both his work and his family. Thomas also starts questioning the ethics of his job as he is also forced to kill innocents who become casualties of war.
The film does a good job showing that even soldiers who haven’t gone to combat in the ground also experience PTSD. What all these drone pilots have to do is pretty much control a drone through a computer and press a button to ignite a missile to its target. It may be like playing a video game but it’s not because it’s killing flesh and bones rather than pixels, as Bruce Greenwood’s Colonel Jack Jones would describe it.
There’s not much action going on in the movie besides the drone strikes, but Good Kill shows a lot of drama when depicting Thomas and his team fighting a war outside enemy lines. Thomas would do anything to go back overseas and fly for real, but there’s no need for this type of work anymore as the U.S. government rely heavily on drones. Thomas and his unit go through a change in leadership when the CIA starts giving orders on whom they need to kill. Thomas and his partner Verz Suarez (Zoey Kravitz) start questioning the orders that the CIA is making when they have to make some objectionable kills that costs some civilian lives. They even have to make some hard calls when they see things that are outside of their jurisdiction.
Thomas is also struggling in his own home when he tries to connect with his wife Molly (January Jones). The only time when he would bond with his family is when he was away on tour and came back. His new life spending half his time at work and at home is what drives him to the edge of his sanity. Thomas gets drunk most of the time he’s at home and is in control when he is at the base. Creating a film about drone pilots who distance themselves from having a normal life can be a difficult task, but it definitely makes its point across. Hawke and Jones do a wonderful job depicting a marriage that is in turmoil.
This film has become the third time that Niccol and Hawke teaming up since their last film Gattaca. Both of them have created a film that’s not high-concept like their other films but this film is raw and powerful regardless. Jake Abel and Zoe Kravitz also do fairly well in their supporting roles as they present the dilemma of good and bad that Thomas faces every day. Bruce Greenwood’s commanding officer also brings the story together as he represents the frustration of the future in warfare where he no longer recognizes the military he serves.
After the film starts, we don’t get any surprises like the other science fiction films that Niccol is known for. Audiences can tell where the film is headed as we focus on the psychological aspects of warfare. Niccol shows us how pushing a button on one side of the world can bring death to the other side. The tension builds once we see the destruction about to take place in the homes of the Middle East. The photography by Amir Mokri is outstanding as we are given a clear picture of normal life from a soldier’s perspective and from the enemy lines in the Middle East. Amir’s technique makes the film visually appealing, balancing the powerful performances from the cast.
Good Kill is a movie that is strong on emotions with showing us the side of warfare that hasn’t been shown before. At the end of the film, there isn’t really any closure for these characters, which works out fine with a film like this. Niccol definitely leaves us questioning what happens in our side of the war, so all we can do is wonder and ask ourselves if the war will ever end.
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