Good Kill Blu-ray Review
What happens when we start to fight our battles through television screens, with joysticks? What happens when handling assassinations half the world away is someone’s 9-to-5, when we take away some of the human interaction that makes war and killing real? These are the central questions in the movie GOOD KILL. An Andrew Niccol (THE HOST, LORD OF WAR) movie starring Ethan Hawke, GOOD KILL wants to be more important than it ultimately ends up being, but it carries a lot of interesting thoughts along the way.
Ethan Hawke plays Major Thomas Egan, a fighter pilot who now lives in Las Vegas with his family. But when he goes to work, he sits inside what looks like a cargo container, lined up next to dozens of others just like it. Inside he sits at the controls of drone located halfway around the world, watching over Afghanistan and monitoring for terrorist activity. He’s the one who pulls the trigger when they decide to strike. Egan is meant to be likeable and somewhat relatable, but Hawke’s performance, meant to be gruff and surly, comes in too one-note to connect with the audience.
This might actually be a good representation of the way a (former) pilot feels in this new video-game war landscape, but it makes for a long evening when there is little character development. Instead, we see Major Egan when he is already in the midst of depression about his reduced responsibility and position, not to mention being physically removed from his compatriots. Egan is not openly questioning his place but also clearly not enjoying where he is. His melancholy is affecting other parts of his life as well; his marriage might be falling apart and he’s started self-medicating. Instead of having the opportunity to grapple with these situations, though, we are subjected to repeated scenes of Egan doing his duty, which heavily weighs down the second act of the film.
All of this leads to Egan’s even greater discomfort when his group, one of the best (it’s kind of assumed) is asked to start working with the CIA on more covert ops. Their rules of engagement are different than Egan and company are used to, however, and this catapults the downward spiral he’s already started. And this is where GOOD KILL does a disservice to its subject-matter. Instead of making Egan face the questions he’s been cautiously avoiding (is this solving the problem or is this continuing the cycle and creating more terrorists) the audience is asked to instead put off the moral dilemma in favor of blaming the CIA and their haphazard murder of (probably, according to the movie) innocent Afghanis in the name of freedom.
None of this is to say that GOOD KILL isn’t emotionally resonant with its audience but the feelings are more a result of the at times horrific subject matter than due to the intrinsic journey of our character. There was a lot of opportunity for that journey and self-discovery, for Egan to recognize his reluctance to participate in a war where he was able to bring so much ruin without ever being in danger. But they chose not to do that. And so GOOD KILL is left being a mediocre movie that is far more important than it has any right to be. The message is strong but in the filmmaker’s efforts to be cautious with blame they leave us wondering who we should like and who we should fear… This could have been a powerful message if it was clearly the filmmaker’s intent, but instead it is a result of the ponderous way in which GOOD KILL deals with blame, casting a little bit on everyone and never really helping to solidify the characters moral compass.
GOOD KILL, sadly, just isn’t good. But it may be an important landmark in cinema in 20 years for what it has to say about drone warfare. And for that reason alone I recommend viewing this uneven film.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) The video presentation of GOOD KILL is all desert dry with a sallow color saturation that works for the likely washed out way in which Egan sees the world.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio quality for GOOD KILL is equally good with some nice highs and lows but even though this is a war movie don’t expect great sound.
GOOD KILL: Behind the Scenes (15:06) The behind the scenes vignette brings out all the things that could have gone right with GOOD KILL. The vignette is a much better representation of what the story should have been and it’s actually quite good though very focused on the plot.