ANDREW NICCOL’S GOOD KILL — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Good Kill is an excellent anti-war drama that scores serious points for delving into the psychological complexities that would come with killing people all day long at the controls of a drone that’s cruising endlessly around Afghanistan while you sit in an air-conditioned metal can at some secret Nevada Government installation. Ethan Hawke is the troubled ex-pilot who has been replaced by computers and unmanned aircraft, Bruce Greenwood is his snappy and ballsy senior commander who loves to lay down the law, Zoe Kravitz is a wet behind the ears rookie who takes a shine to Hawke, and January Jones is Hawke’s skimpily dressed ex-dancer wife who is slowly but surely losing her husband due to the torment of his job. Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol (the underrated political satire Lord of War, the sensational sci-fi noir Gattaca, the brilliant script for Peter Weir’s startling The Truman Show), this is a really strong effort, which is customary for Niccol, as he’s always been interested in exploring unique ideas that go beyond the norm. Good Kill plays like a nifty companion piece to Lord of War; they both share a cynical spirit that befits the morally ambiguous material and both feature characters that walk a very fine ethical line. Hawke is fantastic here, all introverted and buttoned up, prone to explosive bits of alcohol-fueled rage, pursing his lips and speaking out of the corner of his mouth. He’s been on quite a roll the last few years and this is another terrific performance from him. Good Kill is a provocative, topical piece about the mental cost of drone warfare, and how it affects the people sitting in these steel trailers in the middle of the desert pulling the trigger on what appears to be an X-box machine. The visualization of the drone strikes have an eerie, unsettling quality to them, and the situations that are depicted in the film were lifted from factual incidents, which makes the narrative sting even more. The Obama years will forever be known as The Drone Years, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film have a long shelf life. I love how Niccol is so pessimistic all the time with stuff, as there are few other filmmakers who have been this consistently interested in tackling real, current issues while still infusing their work with a sense of stylish entertainment. Amir Mokri shot the hell out of the movie, giving it a very sleek visual appearance without being in your face; he’s one of my favorite current cinematographers. And while I maybe expected a larger finish, you have to applaud Niccol for going there with Hawke’s character, allowing him to finally do something he KNEW was right, rather than just taking an educated guess and pushing a button.

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