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Good Kill (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 103 minutes.

Not for children.

A few years ago videos of drone strikes killing Islamic terrorists started proliferating over the internet. There were voices talking and Jihadists shown being blasted to kingdom come. This is a movie about the people controlling the drones. In this movie they are located in what looks like portable offices (like portable toilets) located outside of Las Vegas.

Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a fighter pilot who has been assigned to be the ďpilotĒ navigating the drone from inside the portable office and pushing the button launching the devastating rocket bombs. He is troubled by what he does and it gets worse when the CIA takes over designating the targets.

Unhappy that he no longer pilots a plane, he gets worse as he contemplates orders that require him to kill what he feels are non-combatants. His bad attitude seriously affects his marriage and his relationship with his long-suffering wife, Molly (January Jones).

What makes flying drones significantly harder on the pilots like Maj. Egan is that pilots of jet fighter-bombers drop their payload and fly away. Drone pilots hover over the target to conduct ďdamage assessment,Ē so they get to see the real damage that occurs as a result of their actions.

Written, directed, and produced by Andrew Niccol, the aerial shots of Afghanistan, Waziristan, and Yemen were all shot in Morocco. And since itís about drones, there are no ground shots of those locations. They are all viewed from the vantage point of a drone flying over. Niccol had two actual drone pilots with him at all times to ensure the accuracy of what he was filming. However the CIA is presented as sort of a bad guy in the film. Niccol says that even though CIA missions are flown out of the Nevada base, his drone advisors refused to discuss or acknowledge anything about the CIA.

There is some interesting cinematography. Some of the colors of Egan seem skewed a little, maybe to emphasize his mental problems. Hawke gives a good performance, as does Jones. Bruce Greenwood is convincing as Eganís commanding officer, Lt. Col Johns.

The varying viewpoints of whatís being done are explored through conversations with Eganís crew, at least one of whom supports kills that also take out innocent bystanders, but the film is clearly slanted towards the idea that drone warfare is immoral. Even so, itís well done and does emphasize the enormous mental problems created by war.