Good Kill is set in 2010, where following the events of 9/11, drone use has escalated and this is the time where the highest number of targeted kills has taken place.
At 10,000ft up in the air, drones are a quick and efficient way of getting rid of the bad guys, without any loss of life to the military because they’re all sat back at base, but the problem comes when innocent lives are taken out along the way, not that that seemed to be an issue to Tony Blair and George W. Bush. They’re not cheap, costing around $68,000 for the missile that’s deployed, but if you can take out the desired target and cause no harm to any innocents, that’s what’s known as a good kill.
There’s talk of the war on terror in Afghanistan, but to avoid bad press from there, the only place the film sends drones into is the made-up country of South Waziristan (with Morocco doubling for it). In that place, they’ve been watching a particular area for 600 hours, with little to show for it. Are they in the right place? Their intel says yes, but their hunches are unsure.
The film looks at how does this affect those who have to fire the shot, and which side of the fence do you sit on as to whether drone strike action is just? Do the ends justify the means? What happens if you get a conscience while doing this job? What happens if you let the stress of the job get to you? These questions are answered as it progresses, although the answers are fairly predictable.
Ethan Hawke is drone pilot Thomas, a gravelly-voiced grump who is tired of his current job and wants to get back into aerial combat because he originally trained as a pilot. Good Kill is tough and uncompromising when it comes to the job, but the domestic side of it is pedestrian as he and Molly (January Jones) have a dull sex life, living in Vegas, while Jones, herself, isn’t firing on any cylinders in the acting stakes. She shows about as much emotion as a cold, dead fish. Sorry, a cold, dead fish using ‘tear stick’ to make her shed a tear in one scene. The couple live on a sterile housing estate in Vegas which echoes the “Little Boxes” song, most recently used in the comedy/drama series Weeds. They apparently share the house with their children, but unless they keep them in the wardrobe, I can barely remember seeing them, even in a barbeque scene.
The other main cast members are Bruce Greenwood in the Tom Skeritt-type boss role of Lt. Colonel Jack Johns, and the sumptuous Zoë Kravitz (Mad Max Fury Road) as new drone pilot Airman Vera Suarez. These roles test neither of them to the hilt, but at least they make a better fist of what they’ve got than Jones.
Early on here’s an amusing moment when he’s questioned by a convenience store clerk as to whether his army outfit’s real. He replies that he’s just blown away six Taliban members in Pakistan… but goes unbelieved.
In 1997, Hawke and director Andrew Niccol worked together on DNA drama Gattaca, which was flawed but essential. For Good Kill, overall, whilst it’s entertaining and engaging for the most part, sadly, this film ends up heading down the obvious path the more it goes on – and an observation which I’ll wrap round a spoiler heading:
The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, and as you’d expect for a modern movie, the print is clear as a bell and free of blemishes. Also, in Vegas it never rains, apparently, so the daytime scenes show it all off perfectly. I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
As for the audio, it’s in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, and it’s fine, but watching a drone’s view on a screen doesn’t exactly lend itself for split-surround aural action. Still, the dialogue and ambience are fine.
When it comes to the extras, on the plus side they’re in HD, but on the downside the content isn’t much. There are brief interviews with Ethan Hawke (4.56) and Andrew Niccol (6.17), but the set-up isn’t great as there’s a lot of background noise going on, and the interview is difficult to make out in the questions he’s asking, either because he talks too fast or because he’s not mic’d up properly. Clearly no-one bothered to do a sound check beforehand.
There’s also a Behind The Scenes (15:02) piece, mixing clips from the film with chat from the cast and crew. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to find filling time in the Sky Movies schedules.
The menu mixes clips from the film against a piece of incidental music, there are subtitles in English and, typically, a low 12 chapters as Arrow (and many other distributors) always do. I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes.
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: August 3rd 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamoorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Andrew Niccol
Producers: Mark Amin, Nicolas Chartier and Zev Foreman
Screenplay: Andrew Niccol
Music: Christophe Beck
Major Thomas Egan: Ethan Hawke
Airman Vera Suarez: Zoë Kravitz
Lt. Colonel Jack Johns: Bruce Greenwood
Molly Egan: January Jones
M.I.C. Joseph Zimmer: Jake Abel
Airman Roy Carlos: Ryan Montano
Capt. Ed Christie: Dylan Kenin
Billy: Stafford Douglas
The Woman: Fatima El Bahraquy
The Boy: El Khttabi Abdelouahab
The Man: Chakir Faiz
Travis Egan: Zion Rain Leyba
Jesse Egan: Sachie Capitani
Danny: Michael Sheets
Lt. Drier: Ross Shaw
Langley: Peter Coyote
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.