By Steve Stebbing.
When it comes to dealing with important issues, especially the ethics when it comes to war, director Andrew Niccol wouldn’t be the first person I thought of to tell that story. As far as his resume goes, Niccol has predominantly been a sci-fi or at least tech-heavy guy, aside from 2005’s Lord of War. Well, in Good Kill, a major plot point of the films is the tech and deployment of unmanned drones, so that works into his usual wheelhouse, but the conscience of the main character, Ethan Hawke’s Major Thomas Egan, is kind of some new territory.
It’s great to see the pairing of Hawke and Niccol again, collaborating for their second time after Gattaca, almost twenty years ago. Unfortunately, sticking in my mind are the absolutely atrocious last two movies from Andrew Niccol, the Justin Timberlake action sci-fi In Time, which appeared to be unfinished in almost every way and The Host, which was based on a Stephanie Meyer book (need I say more). That said, Good Kill really surprised me.
The story follows Major Egan, an Air Force pilot, and family man, who was moved to flying drones when the need for actual plane pilots started to diminish. As the film begins, Egan is already dissatisfied with the role he’s playing in the war on terror, to him, taking the coward’s approach. He has no rush from the video game style approach of combat and the amount of unforeseeable collateral damage heavily weighs on him.The ethics for Egan get muddied more when he’s asked by his commanding officer, played by Vancouver’s own Bruce Greenwood, to join a special squad that answers directly to the CIA in Langley. The missions involve going into unsanctioned territories and indiscriminately destroying all the targets as given by these higher-ups in the CIA and the method shakes everything Egan has left out of him.
The procedure employed by this new project is “double tap.” Hammer the target once to destroy the first initial target, then wait for the surrounding people to survey the situation and start digging out bodies and then rain down another attack on the survivors and search and rescue party. With a complete lack of proper intel and getting completely vague answers, this pushes Egan over the edge and he descends deeper into alcoholism.
Billed as a drama thriller, this film is by no means heavy on action or excitement. It’s a very real story of a man who is totally consumed by his struggle to let go of what he once was but hates the man he now has to be to continue to serve. Along with his heavy drinking, he also has growing issues at home. Tom and his wife (January Jones) seem to drift further and further apart as his darkness grows and with no one to talk about this with Tom completely spirals out.
Now the biggest issues I have in this movie is the actresses. January Jones, in my opinion, has never been a great or compelling actress, aside from her work on Mad Men. She is very wooden and devoid of almost any likable quality, which works very well for Betty Draper but doesn’t work in any other role. Why should I care about Tom Egan’s wife? It’s like she didn’t even show up.
Zoe Kravitz’s character Suarez is a bit of a muddled mystery too. She gives Egan a second voice to his moral compass and has an interesting scene arguing tactics with her fellow airmen that were really quite interesting. Then we get a scene with her and Egan going to a club for some drinks and things get needlessly sexual for really no ascertainable reason, really taking away any plausibility of her character, with a scene at the end that will just drive another nail into the coffin.
These things aside, Andrew Niccol really delivered a thought-provoking film, bringing to light again the shady operations of drone warfare, something, I’m sure, we’ve all thought or talked about before. How terrifying would it be to be absolutely terrified of a sunny day? Or that fire would rain down from a cloudy day? What would the public outcry be if the enemy used these same devices on us? A pretty solid film, I give Good Kill a three out of five.
This film is now playing at International Village, SilverCity Riverport, and Colossus Langley.