Good Kill (Andrew Niccol, 2015)

Clumsily hammering home the obviousness of its ethics-heavy mantra, Good Kill focuses on morally conflicted drone pilot Tommy Egan (Ethan Hawke) throughout the day-to-day of his daily grind. A seasoned member of the so-called “Chair Force,” Tommy’s expertise as a drone pilot remains invaluable despite a deep-seated desire to return to the skies. With his home life beginning to suffer, things go from merely troublesome to dire as CIA involvement throughout this 2010-set war on terror proves to be nigh-insurmountable.

Following Gattaca, although thematically ham-fisted all the same, Andrew Niccol has at least sustained a noteworthy persona within the medium. I’m admittedly a fan of both his directorial debut and Lord of War, however an overarching bluntness has often stilted his work and prevented it from being truly incisive. Good Kill is essentially more of the same, the film insisting on brandishing thoughts and opinions as openly as military officers do ranks on their uniforms.

Confronting the morally muddy detachment coinciding with remotely operated drone strikes in general, it’s easy to see to why anyone would have a hard time stomaching the harsh realities of Egan’s role. Drowning his sorrows amid many an instance of internalized emotion and blank stares, the drama injected into his home life rings hollow as a stab at third-dimensionality – something that’s present but ultimately fails to evoke the emotional response Good Kill demands of us. Instead, the proceedings are largely an inarticulate soapbox for Niccol and his intended commentary on who the real terrorists are in the now decade-plus-long anti-terror initiative.

Believe it or not, what I’ve just outlined is not merely a matter of calculated criticism. In fact, Good Kill‘s central characters make it a point to verbalize these exact points to a T. While fairly non-oppressive by way of subjectivity, Niccol’s latest is still a rudimentary exercise in lapsed timeliness that doesn’t pack nearly enough oomph to stand on its own as a different take on Hawke’s Egan’s war-induced fragility. Good Kill still remains a noticeable step up from the lifeless dross that was In Time (I’ve thankfully not seen The Host), so if you’re interested in seeing a once promising auteur inch closer to full recovery, you could do worse than check this one out for curiosity’s sake.

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