In an age where warfare is less about troops on the ground and more about gaining control from the air, Good Kill explores the ethics of drone strikes while at war in civilian areas.
Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a former pilot working for the U.S. Air Force from Las Vegas as a drone pilot. Egan’s life if falling apart, he is drinking a vodka from the bottle and destroying his marriage with silence. Egan’s wife, Molly (January Jones) is eagerly trying to fix their marriage, but can’t seem to find a way to connect with him. However, Egan incredibly good at his job, so good that the C.I.A. employ his team to undertake airstrikes off book to help fight the war on terror. Only, the C.I.A. operate a little differently to the military, in that they believe civilian casualties are acceptable if members of terrorist forces are killed in the blast. While his family life falls apart, Egan excels at his work, with the understanding that he is taking orders.
Egan’s partner, Airman First Class Vera Suarez (Zoë Kravitz) is vocal about her strong aversion to their missions, stating that this kind of behaviour makes them just as bad as terrorists. Suarez is countered by the loud mouthed Joseph Zimmer (Jake Abel), the Mission Intelligence Coordinator who whole heartedly believes every person they strike deserves to die.
Good Kill explores the internal dynamics of a military team separated by their beliefs and allegiances. While they are all there to achieve a common goal, they all want to go about it in different ways. Supposedly based on real events, Good Kill forces the question; is the war just?
Ethan Hawke is amazing as the stoically silent Thomas Egan, who seems to be constantly fighting an internal battle over the ethics of his job. He’s desperately trying to keep his wife, while battling an alcohol addiction and trying to get back into combat missions. You can see him falling apart at the seams. Hawke probably has less lines than every other character in the film, but holds your attention as you watch him implode slowly.
Good Kill isn’t just your average military film; there are no life or death moments where the characters have to make difficult decisions. They are stuck in a tiny box, aiming missiles, and watching from half the world away. They are even forced to watch disgusting moments between rapists and their victims with no way of helping. It’s a very different picture to what the boots on the ground films explore. That’s probably what makes Good Kill so compelling though; we are so unfamiliar with this kind of action that we can’t stop watching as these unforgivable things happen.
While there isn’t a whole lot happening in Good Kill, underneath there are questions being asked and so many issues being highlighted along the way. Possibly the only downfall to the film is the odd relationship they half start between Egan and Suarez; it feels unnecessary and a little forced. In saying that. Good Kill keeps you on the edge of your seat right up until the final moments as you wonder when Egan will finally let his feelings out.