Sometimes a film about doing a long and arduous task will try to reflect how the characters are feeling in the way it’s made. Sometimes the atmosphere really works, and even though what you’re seeing is technically a bit boring, you feel the way the characters are meant to be feeling. The problem with trying to make a film like this is that when it doesn’t work, you have a boring film on your hands. You can probably guess where I’m going with this…
Good Kill is the story of drone pilot Thomas Egan, played by Ethan Hawke, as he tries to get to grips at no longer being a ‘real’ pilot, but instead is controlling an unmanned aerial vehicle (or UAV) thousands of miles away. It’s also the story of a soldier who is given orders that conflict with his moral code, and depicts the way he handles the struggle of following orders you don’t believe in. Oh, it’s also about the effect being nowhere near the conflict you’re a part of can have on you, especially when one minute you’re killing people in Afghanistan, and two hours later you’re cooking dinner for your kids. I should probably mention that a large portion of this film is about the way a soldier being distant (emotionally) hurts his family.
If you couldn’t tell from my very brief synopsis, this film tries to cover a lot of areas, and it kind of works. None of these story threads are bad, or poorly made, or not well acted, there’s just too much going on. Good Kill tries to do everything well, and it ends up just being alright. Perhaps if one or two of these themes were taken out (I know it’s the biggest emotional punch this film had going to it, but I think it could have easily done without the family man aspect) it could have focused more on making the rest of it better.
Let me be very clear, this isn’t a bad film, in fact, it’s significantly better than other recent wartime box office juggernaut and awards season contender, American Sniper, a film that had a lot more problems than this. In fact the two films are very similar in the themes they present, but Good Kill just does everything better. Even so, I was left with a feeling of disappointment, or at least missed opportunity.
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