Possibly the most controversial aspect of modern warfare is the use of combat drones. Unsurprisingly, it’s predominately America deploying this technology in ‘war zones’ and to terminate enemies in friendly countries (often without that government’s knowledge or permission). There have been a spate of ‘drone films’ over the last couple of years, with filmakers focussing on the ethics surrounding unmanned strikes and the effect on the ‘pilots’. Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill was one of the first and is arguably the best fictional account.
Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) has returned from six tours as a fighter pilot in the Middle East. He’s transferred to controlling combat drones when military priorities change, but struggles to come to terms with being grounded. He works on a small unit lead by Lt Colonel Johns (Bruce Greenwood), but when a new member joins (Zoë Kravitz) he starts to become disillusioned with the job, taking his frustrations out on his wife (January Jones).
There’s much to recommend Good Kill. Until a rather misjudged moment where it gets too much for Tom, it’s a very well-judged film in terms of a moral compass. It is, however, fairly riddled with cliches, but at least it has the bravery to actively question the policies of the US government. Ethan Hawke portrays Tom’s growing sense of unease well and it’s certainly a film which asks a lot of questions, albeit it’s short on answers.
Good Kill is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Films and is out now.