Good Kill

 

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A potentially thought-provoking modern war film is undermined by too many familiar tropes. 

 

Good Kill

Joy stick 'em up: Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz and Ethan Hawke
 

It is not very often that one comes across a war film set in Las Vegas. But Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill is just such an animal. Ethan Hawke plays Major Thomas Egan, a drone pilot who kills Taliban tribesmen from a Portacabin in Nevada. The bare bones of the plot – culled from real-life events – are eye-opening. Albeit ten thousand miles from his prey, Egan – a former fighter pilot – kisses his bored, gorgeous wife goodbye in the morning and then drives to the local airbase. There, he enters a cabin with the legend “You Are Now Leaving the USA” pinned to the door and slumps down behind his console. And then, in the comfort of complete anonymity, he orchestrates the bombs that destroy the ‘enemy’ in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. For Egan, though, it is all too easy a combat zone and not without its psychological repercussions: he’s none too happy with the collateral damage…

 

It is unfortunate that Good Kill, training the ethics of American military action in its crosshairs, arrives so soon after American Sniper. Here again we have a military marriage in crisis – with the beautiful wife trying to reach out to her troubled, retiring soldier – and again the husband is a sniper, albeit more of the gamer variety. But unlike Clint Eastwood’s award-laden, box-office behemoth, Good Kill is rife with clichés. There is the surprisingly sexy co-pilot (Zoë Kravitz – daughter of Lenny), the demonization of the enemy (one Taliban fighter is seen to repeatedly rape the same woman) and the resource to alcohol for the morally conflicted hero. Even so, the film is not afraid to shy away from controversy. As one Top Gun-esque jock proclaims: “It’s easier to kill people than to capture them. If you capture them, you then have to torture them.”

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Jake Abel, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Coyote.

 

Dir Andrew Niccol, Pro Andrew Niccol, Mark Amin, Nicolas Chartier and Zev Foreman, Screenplay Andrew Niccol, Ph Amir Mokri, Pro Des Guy Barnes, Ed Zach Staenberg, Music Christophe Beck, Costumes Lisa Jensen.

 

Voltage Pictures/Sobini Films-Arrow Film Distributors

102 mins. USA. 2014. Rel: 10 April 2015. Cert. 15.