Director: Andrew Niccol
Stars: Ethan Hawke
Year Released: 2015
Running Time: 102 Minutes
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What does it do to a man when his everyday job involves killing people he doesn’t know, for a reason that may never become clear in a position of total safety and comfort. “Good Kill” explores this in a new type of wartime drama. Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a soldier in an age where war has gone from, televised to digital, to fully remote. Due to the lack of pilot positions Maj. Egan is forced to give up his F-16 for an air-conditioned box in Las Vegas where he pilots drones. He hopes to get back into the pilot seat of a plane but his exceptional skill with drones leads his team to work top secret missions for the CIA. As the body count rises and the civilian casualties go from rare to commonplace, Egan’s relationship with his wife and children slowly begins to unravel.
“Good Kill” is a film where the focus is not on the plot itself but the characters, more specifically the main character. At its heart, this film is about remote warfare and how it affects the people being the controls and the nature of warfare itself. It’s no secret that soldiers coming back from warfare can feel disconnected from both their family and the world around them, but what happens when warfare and daily life become one in the same. While it would be easy to dismiss drone piloting as not being “real combat” the fact remains that despite how much of a video game it looks like when the trigger is pulled, real people die. This is the root of Egan’s breakdown, it’s not simply the stress or the drinking, or the long hours, or even the fact that his position makes him feel like a coward. But it’s the fact that killing people, whether they are terrorists or random civilian feels awful to anyone with a conscience. Even though Egan does his killing from a place of comfort and safety he has the unfortunate ability to clearly see, who he is killing and the aftermath of the attack. From the targets grieving wife and children to the funeral (which he sometimes, must also attack) the chaos of the battlefield does not protect Maj. Egan, he sees the results of every action that he takes.
Ethan Hawke gives an excellent performance in portraying a man who is suffering in silence. Hawke manages to perform the difficult task of keeping his emotions bottled up, but not so bottled up that the audience can’t see that they’re bottled up. The rest of the cast is mostly average with the exception of Bruce Greenwood as Egan’s commanding officer, who manages to be both a tough C.O and a sympathetic ear for Egan. Sadly it’s Egan’s fellow soldiers who provide the worse parts of the movie. During their lunch breaks, two of Egan’s squad debates the morality of their actions. Sadly this means yelling out the basic talking points that you’ve likely heard in any news debate. While this is sadly realistic (most people, really do just repeat what they heard on the news) it doesn’t make for interesting cinema. Despite these painful but brief interludes and the rest of the cast not being very interesting, the main focus of the story is on Ethan Hawke and he more held my interest. “Good Kill” is a moving drama that strikes at what it means to be a soldier in an age where you may not get bloody, but you still don’t feel clean.
Did I like the movie: Yes
Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it
Would I buy it: No
What’s the most frustrating part of your day: When I go to the grocery store and try to buy one of those checkout dividers, but the lady behind the counter keeps putting them back.