Images and text in this post may contain affiliate links which, if a purchase is made from those sites, I may earn money or products from the company.
Good Kill is almost like a more reflective American Sniper. For with a moral compass being presented, when it comes to the US’s war on terror, we aren’t presented a one-sided narrative which seems drowned in patriotism and lacking heart.
Director/ Writer: Andrew Niccol
Trigger Warning(s): Rape Scene
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
It is 2010, and the use of drones is strongly kicking off. The administration supports them in its war on terror, especially in light of it meaning less boots on the ground. However, with less boots on the ground, and more drones in the air, mean less airmen, at least in the traditional sense. Enter Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) who is a former pilot who now finds himself, under the command of Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood), flying drones all day. Alongside him is Vera Suarez (Zoe Kravitz), and a handful of other soldiers, all seemingly recruited more so from malls than a military academy.
Leading to the heart of the story: Not the terrorist targets, but the civilian casualties. Of which, per the CIA, are treated as expendable. Thus leading to Suarez, for the most part, questioning orders, as Thomas’ professional and personally life just becomes TARFU (Totally And Royally F—– Up). But, the question is, will all end well for Thomas? Much less, though history has shown the drone program to be a long-standing investment in the American military, will he adapt, reject, or choose a 3rd option when it comes to this soul-crushing detail?
What makes this movie good is the fact that the parties involved question orders. After all, it is one thing to kill a target, who you know is a terrorist, but then to kill based off assumptions, and then let women and children be damned, well that is a whole other issue. And with both Hawke and Kravitz’s performances and dialog, you get to see that side to the War on Terror that films like American Sniper avoid.
Not only that, but the film outright repeats what a handful of media pundits, and many on social media, have been saying for years: This war, and especially drone strikes, are what create terrorist. And while the film gives just enough for you to understand the actions of the administration are reactionary, it never beats the idea of 9/11 into your head to justify every action took. In fact, even with that moment in US history in mind, there remains a display of guilt and even regret sometimes in the film. Thus crafting a story which isn’t necessarily focused on vengeance, or blind patriotism, but the need to work, protect your country, and yet question if the country you love is doing itself more harm than good.
For me, the subplot of Thomas’ relationship with his wife Molly (January Jones), and his family drama, just did nothing for me. Be it because Jones seems type cast as the annoying wife, or because it seemed like the subplot was made for a moment to reflect on his drone missions, I just found myself wanting to wander to kill time.
Also, a part of me felt odd about Suarez having the type of chemistry she did with Egen as she did. For with her being the sole female soldier worth noting, I felt the need to roll my eyes as she had moments with Egen in which she was flirting.
Overall: TV Viewing
While a good film, the issue with Good Kill is that it is more noteworthy because of films like American Sniper coming out prior, than because it is a good film within itself. For while the commentary and perspectives are welcomed, they aren’t crafted in the film in such a way in which you feel as if the characters are more than talking heads. For while Hawke’s performance is good, as well as Kravitz, there isn’t a real look at the complicated feelings based off their actions. If only because the time which could be dedicated to that is gives to Thomas’ personal life which brings 0 value to the film.
Hence the TV Viewing label for Good Kill seems more like a reaction to American Sniper than something which could be considered on the forefront.