Posted Oct 28 2015

Good Kill - This Movie Drone Rocks

Dir: Andrew Niccol

Starring Ehan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Bruce Greenword

Andrew Nicoll has to date been a better writer than a director. The Truman Show remains his finest work and Peter Weir certainly had a hand in that. Yet, in his best work as a filmmaker, Nicoll has delivered some interesting goods, such as Gattaca and Lord Of War. He’s also stumbled, but interestingly – as with SimOne. And just stumbled – The Host.

With Good Kill, he’s much closer to what you feel is his preferred wheelhouse. And much closer to delivering a fine film, even if it is one that frustratingly never quite fulfils its potential.

This is a scary contemporary (albeit set in 2010) tale of drone fighters. Hawke and his ilk no longer fly planes in modern warfare, they sit in steel bunkers in the desert just outside Las Vegas (with the words “You Are Now Leaving The U S Of A” stencilled on the outside), remotely piloting machines that drop death on others. Then having often laid waste to other, foreign families, go home to their own to remove Call Of Duty joysticks from their sleeping kids’ arms.

This is a bleak view of modern warfare here, not so much a film about the dehumanisation of conflict as a film about the removal of any sense of emotional attachment to events that – for all intent and purposes - are reduced to flickering images on a screen. Yet Niccol smartly plays the parallels, mixing in aerial shots of his US soldiers’ desert based Nevada prefab homes, with the similarly located outhouses of the alleged Taliban insurgents they “battle” in a far away Middle East.

This is for the most part smart, provocative, thoughtful material. And, being concerned as it is with the effects such actions have on the people who perform them, the director couldn’t have found a better leading man than Hawke. The actor remains loyal to the filmmakers he works best with, and Nicoll remains his other cinematic touchstone that isn’t Linklater. Here the actor, despite picking his kids up from school in a muscle car that belies his age, is playing in a very different key to Boyhood. More than we've ever ever before, he is stoic in both look and emotion, the supressed anguish of his actions etched on his face, (with just the one brief glimpse of that little boy lost vulnerability that instantly takes you all the way back to Dead Poets.) it’s a remarkable performance, and well met by Greenwood as his wearied commander, who clearly relishes delivering Nicoll’s fine, fine dialogue. It’s also a pleasure to see January Jones not play ice maiden for once.

Nicoll’s latest is inventive, thought-provoking cinema that for the most part makes you feel. But as a director, he has never managed to deliver a fully satisfying film (Peter Weir – where are you?) and this messes up its denouncement, substituting misplaced heroism in a film that is, up till that point questioning the very nature of what that word means nowadays

Good Kill - bad ending.


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