Release Date: May 15, 2015 (Limited and VOD)
Director: Andrew Niccol
MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 102 min.
Director Andrew Nichol has always had a penchant for creating films that shine a light on issues happening within our current political climate. Be it the rapid advancement in genetics (Gattaca), our voyeuristic nature (The Truman Show) or the always hot-button issue of gun control (Lord of War). Even when the movies aren’t great, he always takes an interesting approach.
Unfortunately with his latest, Good Kill, any creative approaches are tossed aside in favor of a cliché-ridden, by-the-numbers war drama that fails to truly raise any meaningful questions, as they become muddled down within the shear banality of the script.
This is too bad because the film actually starts off strong, as we’re introduced to Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke), a decorated Air Force pilot pulled out of the cockpit and put into a pod in the middle of the Nevada desert, tasked with piloting a combat drone. Every morning he wakes up and has breakfast with his family, kisses his wife (January Jones) goodbye, and heads to work, where he spends the day monitoring and occasionally launching missiles at groups of unsuspecting terror suspects in the Middle East.
Tom begins having trouble coping with his daily duties, drinking more, and becoming more disconnected from his wife and kids. Then his team gets orders that they must carry out a series of operations for the CIA, most of which involve killing a large number of people who can’t be confirmed as enemy combatants, Tom begins to completely lose his grip.
Good Kill tackles some very serious and tricky subject matter, which is more relevant today than ever before, but it does so in such a bored, superficial way that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. January Jones’ character is completely one-dimensional, causing her to be unlikable at best. New recruit Vera Suarez, played by Zoë Kravitz, seems to have no other purpose than to provide the audience with enough exposition to understand Tom’s job and occasionally to raise concerns about the brutality of the job. And Bruce Greenwood’s character of Jack Johns, Tom’s superior, speaks in what could only be described as sound bites. His lines prove to be the best of the bunch, but every time he speaks, it is as if he is giving a speech to an underachieving group of T-Ball players.
A dissection of the method in which we deploy and use drones, the constant moral dilemmas the pilots and crew face, and seeing how it all worked was fascinating during the first act of the film. However, it goes downhill from there, as Hawke’s character falls deeper into his alcoholism until everything culminates into a telegraphed climax that’s lackluster at best.