Andrew Niccol’s latest writer/director effort here makes no bones about its genesis. Bruce Greenwood, who plays Ethan Hawke’s commanding officer mentions that he’s none-too happy about the fact that XBOX has managed to train people to fly UAVs and hit targets several thousands of miles away.
There’s a curious detachment inherent in the job of operating these aircraft/bombing devices. Anyone who’s played the later installments of the Call of Duty franchise would know about the UAV episodes where you can spray machine gun bullets or drop a massive great bomb on enemies. Indeed, the whole film sort of plays out like this. Niccol’s primary objective is not too dissimilar to that of Clint Eastwood’s in American Sniper. But, where American Sniper was heavy-handed and full of cemented throat grabbing, Good Kill is more restrained. It allows Hawke to breathe more in his performance. And he doesn’t have to put in a stupid southern drawl, either.
And now on to Niccol; at home here without having to resort to anything truly fantastic or bizarre (see: In Time, Gattaca etc) we see his strong poker face and generally direct handling of the situation. The focus is really at home where his wife and kids are pottering around waiting for daddy to come home more disturbed than he did yesterday. Hassled by the sheer weightlessness of his job, and the distant connection he has with the decisions he makes, he trly does get more and more hassled by his work. It’s the surefire handiwork of a director more in tune with the characters than the audience; and in a film like this, that’s absolutely the best course of action.
I’ve no doubt people will give this a go expecting it to be gung-ho Americana writ large; but then, the sorts of people who wander into a movie named “Good Kill” probably don’t know who Andrew Niccol is, and the careful, sophisticated deliberation he can achieve with his own material. And that’s, sadly, the reason why Good Kill – despite being vastly superior to the likes of American Sniper – will take a back seat. Well, that, and the unfortunate timing of its release, anyway.
Author: Andrew Mackay
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