Good Kill (2015)

I really enjoy a good military movie, even though Hollywood really doesn't have much idea how to write for soldiers or how to interpret actual military strategy or events. This is kind of a misleading and too sweeping of a statement, but it seems to hold up pretty well. From the story that was pumped-up for the screen in Unbroken to the flawed characters and tactics in Fury to the modern story and intolerable insubordination of Cam X-Ray, writers try to shoehorn in their own politics and their kind of flaky, wishy-washy temperaments.

Welcome to Good Kill, a movie about drone operators who live in Las Vegas and fly sorties in Afghanistan before 9-11. They are generally happy with their perceived heroic missions where they get a target, make sure that only bad guys are in the vicinity, and they lay waste to it. Then, they hover around to count the body parts. So, a constant stream of killing people remotely and looking at their dead carcasses while people from the surrounding building flow out to help the survivors. None of them have a problem with this, as they are soldiers fighting a war, and they are killing the enemy. Again, these are soldiers trained to kill upon being ordered. Professional soldiers.

Ethan Hawke is the main pilot of the drone that we follow, and most of the others are just support. He used to be a pilot in real combat aircraft, and he would really like to get back in an actual plane, but his requests have gone unanswered for the time being. So, he lives in his nice house with his beautiful wife, played by January Jones, and his kids. Ethan, however, turns out to be a quiet ball of hate and guilt. He's clearly not taking the current pattern of killing people remotely all that well, and when things escalate to include civilians as collateral damage, his swirling around the drain gets faster and faster.

I have no idea how this guy would have passed any of the tests pilots are put through to evaluate their psychological ability to deal with killing the enemy. Remember, this is pre-9/11, so this is a standing army of only the people who wanted to get into the military for the general principle of it (as opposed to perceiving a specific threat that they wanted to go after). In fact, the same can be said of his copilot, Zoë Kravitz, who is more emotional about pretty much everything that happens to everyone than anything. She probably represents Ethan's unspoken conscience, but she comes off as a weak interpretation of what many female characters wind up being in these films, and it does a disservice to the actual women in the military.

The first and foremost problem with the characters, though, is the Lt. Colonel in charge of the bunch, played by Bruce Greenwood. Bruce plays his character well, but his character is complete crap. He questions orders every damn time he is given them. EVERY DAMN TIME. If you were his commander and you told him to get you a cup of coffee, he would beat around the bush and ask if you were sure you wanted a cup of coffee. He might even suggest a cup of green tea, instead. Anyone who is so unwilling to do as he is told would never have risen to become an officer.

As for the rest of the movie, it attempts to explore the morality of war and the morality of drone strikes. It doesn't seem to cover this topic particularly well, and it really isn't the right format to discuss it. If you want to go into the morality of it, you need to either be down in the trenches with the people being bombed or in the rooms where the people who order the bombings are having the discussion about making the order. People carrying out the order? They are doing their job. Leave them out of it.

Direction was okay
Story wasn't good
Dialog was weak
Acting was okay
Effects were good

Bottom Line: If you want a good military movie, go back and watch American Sniper.



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