‘Good Kill’ is Andrew Niccol’s didactic, sometimes wishy-washy liberal movie about the drone strikes
Made with an important purpose, Good Kill is, at worst, just another exhibit in some future film retrospective, regarding how American feature films tried to cope with the War on Terror and ended up with scripts that were figuratively doubled over like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.
Director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) asks a lot of the right questions, however didactically he phrases them. And his crew saves the day, considering the lack of cooperation from the U.S. Air Force. Photographer Amir Mokri makes the desert vistas glow, and he lights Zoë Kravitz better than anyone has before. Production designer Guy Barnes creates a convincing bunker in which drone pilots of the year 2010 carry out their strikes on Central Asia; he contrasts this little room with the sci-fi architecture of the Las Vegas strip, and the home where the hero Maj. Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) lives. It’s a creepy housing tract on the extremity of that city—the traumatized hero zones out over the barbecue, looking straight into the moonscape up to all the way to the horizon.
One particularly smart move: the casting of Hawke, who tended to be seen as a low-budget Tom Cruise once upon a time, in what might well be the later adventures of Maverick from Top Gun.
Deskbound, Egan is getting a good case of the shakes from immolating strangers half a world away at the push of a button. During his time off, he’s drinking vodka from the bottle and having strife with his wife (January “Miss Dissatisfied” Jones). Egan’s embittered lieutenant colonel is played by Bruce Greenwood, the film’s standout.
You’d have to be as capable an actor as Greenwood to transcend the incredibly didactic dialogue that explains military slang (why?) and his deep political feelings (again, why?).
The civilian casualties mount once the CIA takes over the strikes, though there is final redemption that comes in the bad old movie way.
Good Kill offers up its wishy-washy liberalness to the extent of literally positioning Egan at a lunch table between the team’s designated hawk (Jake Abel) and its dove (Kravitz). Kravitz gets the worst of the script: “Should I bother pointing out the non combatants in the impact zone?”
It’s very startling to see Good Kill done, with the caveat that what’s done is being done within the clear limits of what can be said during wartime.
Good Kill With Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Rated R. 102 minutes. PHOTO: Ethan Hawke plays an Air Force drone pilot trying to balance the ethical questions of his job and his fraying relationship with on-screen wife January Jones in Andrew Niccol’s movie ‘Good Kill.