“Good Kill” (2014)
Thomas (Ethan Hawke) is an Air Force pilot, or at least, he used to be. He has traded his cockpit of an F-16 flying over Afghanistan for a seat in an air-conditioned portable building in the desert of Las Vegas. He now is flying drones that are thousands of miles away, a virtual video game that he uses to kill people in the real world. It’s killing Thomas, and he desperately wants to be flying again, feeling the pull of the g’s and the thrill of knowing that anything could go wrong at a moment’s notice.
Thomas gets to go home every night to his home in the suburbs to his wife and kids, but he doesn’t seem to find much solace in the comforts of being home. He spends his nights secretly drinking alcohol from a bottle he hides in the bathroom, rarely interacting with his wife, Molly (January Jones). He does all the things that a suburban husband does: he mans the grill for neighborhood bar-b-q’s, helps the kids with their homework and picking them up at school. Instead of enjoying these moments, Thomas keeps daydreaming of flying again, longing for that adrenaline rush.
Even the addition of Airman Vera Suarez (Zoe Kravitz) to his team doesn’t pull Thomas out of his funk. He pleads with his immediate commanding officer; Lt. Colonel Johns (Bruce Greenwood) to be giving back a plane falls on deaf ears. Thomas’s world gets even more depressing as their mission changes from the comfort of the Air Force to the shadowy world of the CIA. The CIA doesn’t play by the rules, and now Thomas has to fire his drone missiles at possible innocent civilians. HIs career, his marriage, and his sanity may not survive much longer.
“Good Kill” never hits the mark as it tries to cover too many aspects of today’s military life. The film wants to be about the de-humanizing of modern warfare. Instead of directly interact with your enemy on the ground, now you watch from a distance as your bombs hit their precise targets. It wants to explore the war on terrorism, and the idea that the tactics of remote killing is creating more problems than solving them. The problem is the film never fully explores these ideas with any conviction or purpose, making those scenes seem just another part of the film.
Writer / director Andrew Niccol misses the mark also on the home life scenes. The interaction between Thomas and his wife is just one long silence. Rarely do the characters interact with each other, and if they do show any emotion, it goes way over the top. We have seen the marriage denigrating through lack of communication and understanding too many times, as the film doesn’t bring anything new to its storyline.
Ethan Hawke, as the brooding pilot is never asked to do too much, and much like the character that he plays, it’s a lackluster performance. Hawke’s character rarely interacts with anyone, never giving him a chance to really explore his character or let any layers come through. January Jones is not unitized at all; most of her scenes are of her either suffering in silence or doing a slow burn. Bruce Greenwood gives a somewhat inspired performance of a commander who longs for the old-school way of doing things, but must adapt his command skills as best he can for this new world. Zoe Kravitz is wasted in the role of the possible love interest of Hawk’s character. She has to deliver some of the worst lines of the film as her character tries to survive in the “boys club” of their unit.
“Good Kill” never quite connects with its audience, failing to give anything other than a rather predictable story that can’t settle on what its message is. Like Thomas in the film, we too feel disconnected and empty when the film finishes. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Good Kill” is playing exclusively in Atlanta at the Plaza Theatre
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