Good Kill (3 stars)

Good Kill

Ethan Hawke excels in Andrew Niccol's revealing, ultimately compromised film

With its hot topic and scorching cast, Good Kill should be better than it is. The writer-director is the thoughtful Andrew Niccol, the screenwriter of The Truman Show who previously penned and directed Gattaca and Lord of War, both featuring Ethan Hawke, who also stars here. Set in 2010, the story deals with the thorny issue of drones – the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) used in modern-day warfare to seek and destroy enemy combatants.

Niccol’s film looks at the impact on those that fly the drones, lifting a lid the US government in particular would rather keep firmly shut. Much of what Niccol shows is revealing – with the pilots operating out of a small metal container stationed on a Las Vegas airbase, firing on enemy targets in Afghanistan as if they were playing the most dangerous version of Call of Duty ever invented.

Hawke plays Major Tom Egan, a former fighter pilot whose career has been reduced to such callous tactics. Married (to January Jones' stay-at-home wife Molly) with kids, Egan starts to become shaken by the sheer brutality of his daily routine and begins to unravel. Increasingly hot-tempered and violent – one particular argument he has with Molly will leave you quaking – it’s as if this former 'top gun' is ready to hit the ejector button.

Flanked by solid turns from Zoë Kravitz, as his rookie colleague, and Bruce Greenwood, as his superior, Hawke is on fine form – angry, volatile and confused. But for all Niccol’s grappling with moral complexities he misses the target, veering into an overwhelmingly melodramatic subplot that sees Egan trying to do good by a female Afghani civilian. Reading as if a committee of studio screenwriters held the final act hostage, it’s a disastrous conclusion. What a pity, as Niccol is an intelligent writer – much better than this somewhat compromised effort suggests.

Selected release from Fri 10 Apr.

Good Kill

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Andrew Niccol
  • Cast: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz
  • UK release: 10 April 2015

USAF Major Tom Egan (Hawke) is a former fighter pilot turned Vegas-based drone controller, beginning to unravel from the brutality of his daily routine. Hawke is on fine form and the always-thoughtful Niccol grapples with the complexities, but an overwhelmingly melodramatic final act plays like it was written by a…