As Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) dreams of the days he actually got to fly a fighter jet instead of being bunkered down in Las Vegas at the controls of drones flying bombing raids in Afghanistan he turns to alcohol while on a crash course of ruining his marriage to his wife, Molly (January Jones).
His and his team’s, which features newbie ‘pilot’ Airman Vera Suarez (Zoe Kravitz), hell continues when he is ordered by his superior, Lt. Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood) to follow a new set of orders from the C.I.A., orders that will see a rise in the number of innocent civilians killed.
Good Kill is the kind of the film that the United States Armed Forces do not want you see. Sure there are some conspiracy theorists out there who are claiming that this is the reason that Good Kill has been ‘hidden away.’ Make of that what you want but the history of Good Kill to date is kind of surprising. It launched to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival and then seemed to just disappear after a dismal opening weekend in the United States where it just scraped over the $1000 mark (yes I mean $1000 I haven’t left any zeroes off it).
Now whether or not you believe that The Smoking Man made this film disappear or whether or not it was a case of people staying away because of either the fact that Ethan Hawke’s movies are normally hit or miss these days (you could be excused for placing a Hawke ban on yourself if you had just seen Getaway) or that this from director Andrew Niccol that’s last film was the dog named The Host. Whatever the reason people did stay away from Good Kill and in doing so missed one of the film’s of the year.
Good Kill is one of those films that not only stays with you a long time after the credits have rolled but also opens up your eyes to something that you didn’t even realise was happening. The war is Afghanistan is almost forgotten these days but through this film Niccol is able to shake the public into seeing a hidden side of this war, a side that is not only seeing the lives of innocents lost in a country far away but a side that is also seeing the lives of former combat heroes ruined on the home front.
As the director and screenwriter of Good Kill Niccol expertly draws his audience in by making his audience believe early on that this is going to be a film in the vein of Top Gun, a film that glorifies the Armed Services. Early on we introduced to Thomas Egan and we see him as the Air Force pilot that is considered a hero by those around him, drives a hotted up American muscle car and goes home each tonight to the drop dead model-like wife. But through a series of events Niccol pulls that all away and soon the hero of this film is being forced to watch a graphic rape 7,000 miles away that he can do nothing about and is wasting away in a job that has having a seriously negative affect on his life. To Niccol’s credit he does ‘nice up’ this film for his audience, instead he makes his audience watch the some horrors that Thomas and co are watching and he strongly makes the point he is trying to make without making it feel like he is preaching to his audience.
You can say a lot about Ethan Hawke as an actor. Sure he doesn’t always know how to pick the best script but when he is given a quality script to work with he does deliver. Here is one of those times. Good Kill sees Hawke play the falling hero exceptional well with the scenes he shares with Bruce Greenwood being some of the best scenes you are likely to see on the big screen this year. To the film’s credit it gives some bite to the roles of its female cast and as a result you see some strong acting from January Jones and from Zoe Kravitz who for once is stepping away from the big action blockbusters.
Good Kill is not always an easy film to watch. The graphic rape and bombing raid footage might be a little hard to stomach for some but this is a film that you feel that you must see to realise just how frightening this new X-Box style of war using drones really is. Credit must be paid to Niccol for not holding back, he instead makes his film as stark as the Las Vegas desert landscape he captures so well. If you like a film that makes a strong political point than Good Kill is one film you need to watch this year.
Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Bruce Greenwood, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz
Running Time: 102 mins
Release Date: 10th April 2015