A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.
‘Good Kill’ is an intriguing film about US foreign policy, specifically the use of drones in foreign territories, seen through the eyes of an experienced drone pilot who is increasingly struggling to cope with his job. The film is directed by Andrew Niccol (who helmed the excellent sci-fi film ‘Gattaca’) and stars Ethan Hawke as the drone pilot, Major Thomas Egan (Hawke was also in ‘Gattaca’), who is becoming more and more jaded with the morality of his job. The film does an excellent job of depicting the lifestyle of a drone pilot whilst providing a biting and scathing attack on US foreign policy. It’s worth noting that I’ve no idea how true to life the depiction is but I found it very intriguing, and ignoring the political connotations, an interesting film about modern warfare.
Ethan Hawke has been on a great run recently and he’s excellent once again here as the tortured protagonist, struggling with his demons and his job. Hawke does a superb job of portraying a man with inner turmoil about his career and the scenes depicting the strain this puts on his marriage to Molly (January Jones) are well made. Where the film really excels is in the production design, portraying the grim and sterile environment of the trailers being used as vessels for the drone pilots. The impression of the army base feels very inhuman and detached, with a valid contrast placed between Egan’s hopes to return to flying real planes in combat in comparison with the working environment of a drone pilot. There’s a point made about soldiers in ‘actual’ combat experiencing the same demons as a drone pilot, but they’re actually living and breathing the natural environment of a warzone. In the case of a drone pilot, they carry out the same tasks and face the same moral questions, yet they finish their shift and go home to their families like anyone else leaving an office job. For a former combat soldier such as Egan, that’s extremely difficult to rationalise.
The direction really helps to set the mood of the film and give the audience a sense of the surroundings, with overheard shots in particular used really well to depict the suburbs outside Vegas. There’s something inherently detached about these almost ‘pop-up’ communities with all the houses looking the same with little personality, and this works well when contrasted with the detached and artificial nature of the drone stations. As well as Hawke, the film features Bruce Greenwood as his superior and Zoe Kravitz as a fellow drone pilot, both of whom also struggle with the morality of their jobs. Kravitz in particular is an excellent foil for Hawke, and I’m glad they didn’t push the potential romantic angle too hard.
Andrew Niccol has crafted an intense and detailed character study of a jaded drone pilot, showing the effect this kind of job has on a person’s psyche and on their home life. Ethan Hawke’s performance throughout is expertly crafted, showing the internal struggles he faces and as we approach the end of the film, the little victory the screenplay affords him feels well earned.
Directed By: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kravitz, January Jones, Jake Abel and Bruce Greenwood