Good Kill movie review: American droner

Good Kill yellow light

There are important issues running through this, but the film forgets to be sufficiently engaging in the course of being Significant.
I’m “biast” (pro): like Andrew Niccol…

I’m “biast” (con): …though he keeps failing to measure up to his earliest work

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s desert warfare, but not as we’ve known it. From a room in the sands of suburban Las Vegas, drone pilots kill people in different deserts half a world away. It sounds like science fiction — and given that Good Kill is from writer-director Andrew Niccol, of The Truman Show and Gattaca and The Host fame, you might be forgiven for thinking that that’s what it is. But this is based on reality; in fact, it’s set half a decade ago, in 2010. Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke: Boyhood) is a former combat pilot now pulling joystick duty in a military that fights war as “a first-person shooter,” as his boss, Lt. Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood: Endless Love), describes the job. Tom would prefer to go back to flying for real, but this is what combat is now, so he is stuck having to see up close the people he is killing; they may only be on a screen, but he cannot deny what he’s done when he witnesses, for instance, children accidentally caught in a drone strike that he pushed the button on. So he goes home and yells at his wife (January Jones: X-Men: First Class) and drinks too much. There are important issues running through Good Kill, but the film forgets to be sufficiently engaging in the course of being Significant. The underscoring of the social and personal disconnect that comes when a soldier can be in a combat zone during the day and home in time for a cozy family dinner at night is unsettling. But the intense moments are few and far between. This feels like a 30-minute short ineptly padded out to a feature runtime.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Good Kill for its representation of girls and women.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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