Movie review: "Good Kill" puts the drone in drone warfare

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In the right hands, “Good Kill” could have been an intriguing look into the most modern aspect of our modern warfare. The hands it is in aren’t quite the right hands.

Ethan Hawke stars as Thomas Egan, a former fighter pilot who now serves as a drone pilot. He sits behind a screen and “prosecutes” (read: “kills”) members of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then he goes home to barbecue with his kids and beautiful, dutiful wife (January Jones, not stretching far from early Betty Draper).

While his cohorts see the drone gig as a cushy position, Thomas begins to show the wear. Feeling like a coward and missing the thrill of danger, he wants to return as an active fighter pilot. His duties take on even more moral haze when his unit begins taking orders from the CIA.

Writer-director Andrew Niccol seems to be aiming for something that’s a little “Top Gun” and a more morally conflicted “American Sniper.” But his moralizing is so heavy-handed, it loses impact, particularly when the unseen voice of orders from the CIA overexplains their rationale for, um, orders.

Hawke is such a frustratingly inconsistent actor, and in this film he’s great one minute and not great the next. Zoë Kravitz gives good support as a new airman who sees the moral conflicts, but her character is also saddled with an unnecessary and predictable romantic turn.

“Good Kill” is a good start for discussion on our increasing reliance on drone warfare. It’s just a shame it’s not a better movie.

"Good Kill"

Opens Friday

2 stars out of 4