Following the release of ‘American Sniper’ earlier this year, a joke from controversial stand-up Frankie Boyle started doing the rounds on Twitter. ‘Not only will America go to your country and kill your people,’ it went, ‘but they’ll come back 20 years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad.’ It’s a sentiment that’s impossible to shake while watching ‘Good Kill’, a sombre, intelligent drama that critiques Obama’s ongoing drone policy while still positioning its button-pushing characters as tortured anti-heroes.
Ethan Hawke is on terse form as Tommy Egan, a former pilot now confined to a shipping crate outside of Las Vegas, taking computerised potshots at Taliban targets half a world away. His marriage is crumbling, his kids barely recognise him and he’s starting to question the morality of his mission – especially when orders come down from the CIA to step up the attacks.
‘Good Kill’ is a dour, claustrophobic film, offering an acute and stunningly photographed exploration of middle-American banality and moral ambivalence. Tommy’s house is a featureless box backing on to an empty desert. His life is devoid of joy or meaning.
But how much are we supposed to care? Yes, Tommy’s orders are repellent – but does following them make him complicit, or just a good soldier? That’s the question writer-director Andrew Niccol never comes to terms with, preferring a hands-off approach that feels less like calculated emotional distancing and more like a cowardly refusal to engage