Andrew Niccol's Good Kill lays the foundation for an interesting discussion on the ethics of drone warfare, while also delving into the effects it has on those piloting the machines. Niccol's direction is on-point and focused, while Ethan Hawke lends the film a note-worthy performance.
Director Andrew Niccol re-teams with his Gattaca star Ethan Hawke for Good Kill, a drama surrounding the ethics of drone warfare and how it effects those involved on either side of the machine.
Good Kill may not win any prizes for being a thrilling piece of entertainment, but it’s an interesting film that opts for authenticity over pure popcorn storytelling. Ethan Hawke leads the film with an exceptional performance that anchors down the film’s heavy topics up for debate, while Niccol keeps the direction and writing constantly on-point.
Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force. He misses the days of actually piloting a craft and feeling the intensity of warfare, but appreciates how lucky he is to be able to return to his family each and every night in their Nevada home.
He’s conflicted after receiving new missions that makes him question the ethics behind doing what he does, which involves the killing of innocents in exchange for killing criminals of war.
The decisions he makes on a day-to-day basis are life or death, yet he makes them with the click of a button while staring at a computer monitor. Gone are the days of heated battle and in are the days of fighting in a war from the comfy seat located in an air-conditioned bunker stationed somewhere on U.S. soil.
Drone warfare has always been a tricky topic to debate, with many people vocalizing their opinions from either side of the fence.
Now, director/writer Andrew Niccol attempts to create a film, using the topic as a launching point, which allows for expansion into a character drama about one man torn between both sides.
Ethan Hawke carries the weight of the film with a performance that’s layered with stress, anxiety and the fear of not being sure about making the right call or if he even knows what the right call is anymore.
Hawke and Niccol have worked together in the past, with Gattaca and Lord of War being fine examples of good filmmaking and character work.
Niccol has lost his footing on his last two films, which just so happen to not feature Hawke.
Together, the two seem to bring out the best in each other, with Good Kill proving to be a well-directed and acted picture.
Good Kill does suffer from a tired concept that gets played over and over, until achieving slightly different results, but maybe that’s exactly what Niccol wants the audience to feel.
There’s a sense of repetitiveness that hovers over the last half of the film, which leads to Hawke’s character falling into a downward spiral, both personally and professionally.
Yes, the turn to booze and all-nighters feels a little cliched and shallow, despite Niccol and Hawke setting this up from the film’s opening moments. Things just seem to move at a steady pace, until Hawke’s character snaps and starts making drastic decisions based off events that have already been brewing for some time.
It makes little sense from a character standpoint, but not too much thematically as nothing is really achieved or realized and instead Hawke’s character just sort of experiments with thoughts and ideas that he’s had before.
This leads to Good Kill‘s conclusion, which is supposed to be whole and satisfying, but underplays most of the raw emotion that was on display just minutes before.
I’m not sure if Niccol simply lost sight in the writing or if he always imagined for the film to end so abruptly, yet still complete in the basic sense.
Good Kill is a good film that balances on its core performance and mostly consistent writing and direction up until the very end, which is where the film kind of spins off into its own mess of things.
Sure, there’s a conclusion, but one that might not be met with as much excitement or relief as one would expect. The film brings up serious questions about drone warfare, but doesn’t really bother to dig any deeper to answer said questions.
Characters seem to not agree with decisions made, but still go through with them anyways, only to end up feeling bad about it later, when they already felt bad about them in the first place. It’s confusing and leaves a muddled message that doesn’t exactly stick.
Still, Hawke gives a layered performance that works more often than not, while Niccol finally comes out of his directing slump that has plagued him for the past few years.