By midlandsmovies, Apr 6 2015 06:22PM
Good Kill (2015) Dir. Andrew Niccol
Ready player one? From the director of Lord of War comes this new picture featuring Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot who starts to doubt his role in the war on terror as he sits far from the battlefield. Set in 2010 the film begins in similar vein to the recent American Sniper as we see a mother and child through a set of crosshairs as he is tasked with strategically bombing high-risk insurgents and the unsuspecting collateral damage from afar.
Hawke announces a “good kill” each time he confirms a mission has been achieved but as he pinpoints increasingly vague suspects with no evidence other than being informed they are “high-value targets”, Hawke’s Major Egan begins to falter in his defence of the American dream. His concerns emerge as he controls drones from small isolated porta-cabins on a military base in Nevada and at the end of each day he returns to his typical US family home life of barbecues, beers and big houses. A small strip of green grass in the yard is his paradise in this desert which parallels his cabin “Eden” in the desert of the Middle East.
His wife (January Jones) becomes increasing concerned for his well being as he retreats into drink and explains how he misses the fear of real flying and the only risk he now takes is on the drive back home. Although never straying far, Hawke begins to show signs of PTS disorder as the game-playing ravages take their toll.
Bruce Greenwood is good support playing a Colonel giving out orders and he delivers a great speech early on about how this “ain’t fucking Playstation” and tells new recruits (hinted to be gamers from a mall) they should avoid seeing war as a “first person shooter”. However, the film consistently challenges this set up as joysticks replace real action and even the Colonel admits that “when we went to war with different countries, we actually went to different countries”.
The film’s brutal attacks jolt the viewer into taking a position alongside the protagonists and Niccol places the audience at the same level as them – insinuating that we are part of this as we stare at similar flat-screens from the safety of our own 4 walls.
Zoe Kravitz as Vera Suarez is the first soldier to raise her concerns, as the CIA begin to demand they attack even more questionable targets. Authorising “double tap” strikes on those helping to clear dead bodies via a telephone, their orders are delivered in a monotone blank voice, further distancing those in power from the actual atrocities.
The film constantly focuses on the difficulty of taking responsibility when you are so far away from the war zone, with characters even asking if they are committing war crimes or creating more terrorists through their actions. We get more echoes of American Sniper with the similar contrast of army pressure adding to family woes back home and at least one shot – protagonist watches a blank screen on a switched-off TV – was represented almost identically. However, as the tensions between the different facets reach their peak, Hawke shows why he is a watchable presence as his army man pays less attention to the task in hand – sometimes stopping to text his wife – and brings his pent-up violence and anger back home.
The American Sniper comparisons will be inevitable but it feels more like a companion piece than a carbon copy and a brilliantly written script takes all these complex issues and delivers them through natural speeches and dialogue. Although Niccol is no Eastwood in his attempt at authenticity, the discussions that take place more than make up for a slightly by-the-numbers direction. Those willing to take a seat in this hot chair will be greatly rewarded with a speech-heavy military drama that asks the audience to question the nature of these new automated armaments. The Lord of War indeed.
Midlands Movies Mike