Good Kill Review
The film begins like one of those levels from Call of Duty.
As if you're a player and you are being given orders through your television screen, to blow up neon green human targets. Its funny because, early in "Good Kill," a reference is made to the idea of comparing drone strikes to video games. Flying in drones and dropping bombs on targets comes off just as easy as pushing a button on a gaming controller, but the cost is much more heavy. There are real people dying when a drone drops a bomb, which is something this new movie spends lots of time grappling with.
But don't fret, "Good Kill" is not nearly as preachy as say, "Tomorrowland" was. "Good Kill" follows Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) on his day-to-day life as a drone pilot. This is a fighter pilot stuck behind the screen in a small room. It is absolutely driving him mad that he isn't flying planes but pushing buttons and controls on drones. This affects him so much so that it affects how he acts at work and especially how he acts at home with his wife (January Jones) and their family. Not only is he upset that he isn't a real pilot, but the ethics of his job come into question for him as he and his team begin taking off-the-books missions from the CIA. Since the targets they get are far away from anywhere near America, some of Egan's co-workers feel that they are not a threat, it also comes into question killing unarmed people as well as leaving collateral damage. Egan also plays off the feelings of the other pilots, people who lose faith in what their doing (Zoe Kravitz), people who love what they are doing (Jake Abel) and people just following orders (Bruce Greenwood).
Like I said, despite my synopsis, "Good Kill" is not a preachy movie. It just throws some ideas into the wind and asks the audience to think about them. There are great ideas from both sides of this debate and each is given a good spotlight in the film. For Hollywood always being blamed for a liberal bias in all of its movies, it is refreshing to see something stunningly neutral. This is a movie that is going to make you think, not rethink you're entire views on war and why we fight and how we fight. This is not a movie that really stirs the pot, but really offers information and tries to get the audience to see the debate from both sides, and the film really nails it. The ending, as well as the subplot that goes along with it, ends on a safe note, not trying to get your political views all in a muster.
The work done by Ethan Hawke is superb, and I can say with confidence that 2015 is going to be remembered as a great year for him as a performer. Between this and "Predestination," he has really hit the ground running for the year. He has great chemistry with the rest of the cast, and he pushes his character to not just be a cliché, even though it comes close a couple times. Major Egan isn't a silent alcoholic because of his job or plot convenience, Hawke makes sure his character is fleshed out. Some of the most striking imagery isn't of the drone monitor, but the interplay between Hawke and January Jones. I love that Jones' housewife isn't the normal wife we usually see in these kinds of movies, even though the movie flirts with taking her that direction in one crucial part of the movie. This is very much a movie about how this type of profession would ware on somebody, and it is strong work by all involved.
I will say though that the drone missions are outstanding in this movie. I was quite taken aback just how intense five people in a small room can be, but this cast makes sure you feel every bit of it. The scenes of a bomb actually hitting its target through the drone screen is eerily accurate and the authentic feeling of those scenes really left a lasting impression on me.
From a surface view, this looks just like every other military movie hitting the theaters right now. But I can assure you that "Good Kill" will hit you in a way that you are least expecting. Yes, it tries to jerk around with you, trying to make you believe its just like the other military movies, and that sneaking around can kind of be annoying, but everything else about the movie works. The cast is all on point here, and this movie as a whole is more of a debate piece that something that will cause controversy.
FINAL GRADE: A-