In the new drama Good Kill, Ethan Hawke effectively plays an Air Force pilot who has served several tours of duty in the Middle East wars but now is based in Las Vegas as a drone pilot and is questioning the ethics of his new mission. At his day job, killing Taliban a world away is almost like some kind of perverse video game. At night he goes home to his wife (January Jones) and a marriage on the rocks because of the pressures of his career and life. All of this sends him to the bottle and a downward spiral professionally and personally.
As I say in my video review above, the movie from writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord Of War) is fascinating when it sticks to the drone stuff. It is one of the first Hollywood films to delve into this mysterious world from its unique perspective, and it was an eye-opener to me. You hear a lot about drone strikes, but who is at the controls? The film’s ad line sums up the quandary for Hawke’s Tom Egan: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?” When it sticks to the psychological toll all of this 21st century digital warfare takes, the movie is on solid ground. Particularly fine is the relationship between Hawke and colleague Zoe Kravitz (having a big week as she also co-stars in Mad Max: Fury Road).
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Where things go a little off-kilter for me is with the domestic life. Jones tends to whine a lot in this role, while trying to keep her marriage together, and the alcohol addiction for Hawke takes away from what could be a really interesting film on just the moral consequences of flying combat missions and killing for real by remote control. Overall, these scenes trump everything else, and Hawke — so good in his Oscar-nominated role in Boyhood — plays them to the hilt.Bruce Greenwood, Jake Abel and Peter Coyote are among the other cast members in the independently produced film by Nicholas Chartier, Mark Amin and Zev Foreman, which premiered at Toronto last year. IFC distributes in theaters and VOD this Friday.
Do you plan on seeing Good Kill? Let us know what you think.
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