Gaming can be so very exciting until…Tom Egan (Hawke) is an ace pilot who has been “promoted” to drone service where he goes into an air conditioned cubicle in Las Vegas and wages war in Afghanistan or wherever. Writer/director for this film, Andrew Niccol, wants us to learn about the downside of “armchair” warfare. Egan has already been missing the touch/feel/thrill of a physical plane beneath him when orders come from above that his unit would now be under the control and direction of the CIA rather than the army. This constitutes a change in strike orders from one based on assuring that the target is a bad guy before striking to one that is based on a “pattern of behavior.” That is, the kill target would be based on analysis at a higher level of abstraction with less concern for collateral damage.
Egan lives in Las Vegas in a sterile neighborhood (no vegetation to be seen) with a beautiful wife (Jones) and lovely children. Yes, he can serve his country in his cubicle and go home to his family afterwards just like in a regular job. But there are two problems—one is that his job is less experiential and more mechanical, and the other is the moral dilemma presented by the CIA’s practice of accepting collateral damage as no big deal.
Hawke the actor fits the role well as a brooding, taciturn, creative guy with principles, and one who is comfortable with authority (Greenwood as his immediate superior) until it (the CIA) offends his basic sense of justice and right. Presented in direct contrast is fellow drone operator Zimmer (Abel), who is happy not thinking much about what he is doing from a moral standpoint and rather enjoys the aggression of it and going home to his “vanilla” environment at night. Caught between Egan, the CIA, and Zimmer, Jack (Greenwood) toes the middle ground as best he can while retaining his job. He is tested in this role as much as Egan is in his. Jones as a housewife and Kravitz as a drone co-operator effectively portray women in these situations who generally play a minor role in relation to the men, but here, each clearly exemplifies the female point of view.
Andrew Niccol, with significant writing/directing experience behind him (Lord of War, The Truman Show, Gattaca), again has an important contemporary social issue he wants us to think about. The use of drones is controversial, with the pros seeing it as much more precise—although not perfect—in taking out the leaders of groups bearing murderous ill will toward the U.S. The cons regard it as one of the reasons people in other parts of the world hate us so much. I would be interested in knowing how much comparative collateral damage is done by drone attacks versus bombing from an airplane. Neither is free from that downside. Certainly, Niccol’s point is well made about the apparent unthinking, uncaring manner in which the CIA in this story ordered the drone attacks.
Musician Christophe Beck and cinematographer Amir Mokri both render their crafts well in enhancing the visual and auditory aspects of Good Kill.
The Conundrum of “Good Kill”
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland