Movies have shown us war from all possible angles; from the jungle to the desert to the trenches to the oceans and to the skies. “Good Kill” is the first movie to show us what war looks like from a cubicle.
Major Thomas Egan (a stoic Ethan Hawke) conducts missions over the skies of Afghanistan and Pakistan while never leaving a trailer in the Nevada desert.
He kills enemy combatants with stunning technological precision, then he gets in his car, drives to his suburban home via the Las Vegas Strip, and is home in time to kiss his wife and tuck his kids into bed.
The use of drones by the United States in the war on terror has escalated over the past few years and while the men and women who conduct these missions are safe from physical harm, little thought is given to the emotional toll exacted when the line between the homefront and the battlefront disappears completely.
Egan is a former F-16 pilot reassigned by the Air Force to become a drone pilot. He along with a small crew are under the command of grizzled Lt. Col. Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood in one of his best performances).
Egan is annoyed at being grounded and begins to grow apart from his wife Molly (January Jones). Domestic troubles aside, his work becomes troubling when his distinction in the field draws assignments from the C.I.A.
Targets become vaguer and civilian casualties begin to mount as collateral damage. Egan and his young copilot Airman Vera Suarez (Zoe Kravitz) begin to openly question the mission as the morality behind their actions gets debated head-on.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca,” “Lord of War”) is adept at tackling contentious subject matter without getting too preachy or heavy-handed. All sides of this tricky foreign policy issue are given fair and equal time here.
Drone warfare is easy to dismiss as a necessary evil of the war on terror as all the death and destruction happens half a world away. But somebody still has to pull the trigger.
“Good Kill” is a highly effective movie, even if it doesn’t have a whole lot of meat on its bones. Hawke is solid here, as the charming and loquacious actor dials it way back to play the stone-faced Egan. Kravitz is also very good as she shows the heartbreak and disillusionment on her face as she dutifully carries out her orders.
“Good Kill” doesn’t have the dramatic oomph of “The Hurt Locker” or “American Sniper” even though it walks the same path. What it is instead is some very well-made food for thought.
We ask an awful lot from our men and women in uniform and movies like this give us pause to consider if we might be asking too much.
“Good Kill” is rated R for violent content including a rape, language, and some sexuality.