Sunday, April 12, 2015

Good Kill Review: Bad Logic, Even Worse Convictions, Droning While Drunk

  Good Kill Plays Good Cop, Bad Cop. Good US Military, Bad CIA

Though the anti-drone warfare psychological drama Good Kill may have its heart in the right place, its morally ambivalent head may be another matter. Dabbling first of all, in a contradictory duality of concepts when it comes to the courage of one's convictions concerning Good Kill's ironic title. And intimating unfortunately multiple unintended meanings regarding the conflicted remote control US military warrior in question, and New Zealand writer/director Andrew Niccol's motivations as well.

Ethan Hawke is Tom Egan, an Air Force war pilot redeployed to the Nevada desert - unbilled birthplace of the atom bomb many weapons of mass destruction moons ago - to more modern warfare drone duty. That is, the remote control, video game derived bomb blasting alleged Taliban warriors in Afghanistan.

But Egan is peeved about assorted stuff that has little to do with murdering far flung suspects on the other side of the world, without benefit of judge, jury or perish the thought, legal representation. Egan apparently resents being relieved of his war plane, where, as he explains, there was a much more satisfactory visceral sense of killing anonymous perps up close and personal,and  simply because one is ordered to do so.

And Egan, increasingly self-medicating and essentially droning while drunk, resentfully but dutifully goes along to get along. That is, until a last straw change of plans when the CIA steps in to direct the drone strikes by double remote - from DC. And via the anonymous phone-in barking of orders from code name Agent Langley (Peter Coyote). Much to the dismay of the military and local commander Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood), with the implication, according to this film, that when the military instead of the CIA was droning Afghans to death, those massacres were logical, justified and humane. Huh?

Good Kill does present what the filmmaker seems to believe is somehow a balanced - and less challenging - view. Or at least what may make the movie appear as less than a blatant infomercial for the US military. The drone operators do wince a bit to demonstrate their humanity, when a woman reaches to retrieve a stray severed arm out of a tree following one of their bombings. Then there's Zoe Kravitz, who gets to be the drone killer eventually most appalled politically by the entire business. But she's also hey, a female. You know, the sort of gender based character driven by emotions, and in that regard with seductive designs on Egan, married or not.

And Egan comes to be plagued by second thoughts about all of this business as well. But not necessarily in a way you might think, by denouncing the entire questionable moral and ethical empire building that ultimately constitutes this country's engineering of endless wars on the planet, remote and otherwise.

So what in the end is that preemptively cautious Good Kill, having it both ways, joint pro and anti-war concept all about? For starters, bad working conditions, by being relegated to a physically stress inducing, claustrophobic container in the Nevada desert. Then there's Hawke's character endlessly whining about the loss of somewhat more direct, in your face enemy extermination as a previous old school war plane bomber. Along with 'good kill' US military remote 'warheads on foreheads' assassinations, until the presumably indiscriminate preemptive CIA meddling kicked in. And essentially, ironically, the drones pretty much getting a pass. Or rather, perhaps, the filmmaker.

Good Kill is screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place through April 26th throughout Manhattan. The Festival will highlight hundreds of feature films, documentaries, shorts and special events.
More information is online at

Prairie Miller

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