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Title: Good Kill

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :halfstar:

HTS Overall Score:69

Drones have been in the news more and more the last decade. Much like the invention of other technological changes in warfare, the inclusion of drones in American warfare has been heavily debated and scrutinized. It seems that this happens every time that a new invention gets introduced that can be considered a paradigm shift in the field. The same questions about morality, and the same issues that the grunts have here were copied years ago when the machine gun was introduced, the ability to fire and guide a missile across miles of space, submarines, the jet fighter etc. We look at the increasing detachment from the ACTUAL act of killing and analyze the tar out of it. In some cases those fears are valid, but in others it’s just use having to adapt to a different way of doing things. “Good Kill” analyzes the lives of several air force pilots who are no longer up in the sky, but instead basically acting like they’re playing a video game, maneuvering a drone half a world away and dropping a payload on someone’s head with the flick of a button.

Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) was once a decorated pilot with 6 tours under his belt. After his last one he comes home to find that his beloved F-15’s are no longer in as much demand as they once were, instead being replaced by drones with no active pilot on board. Settling in for a temporary assignment piloting one of these bad boys, he finds himself 3 tours later, still piloting the same drones. The job has gone from the love of flying, to simply sitting at a readout all day long, piloting a drone with a keyboard and joystick, zooming in on the faces of his Afghani targets, firing missiles at said targets, and confirming a “good kill” when he’s done. For a man who adored the open spaces of flying, this constricting job is killing his desire to live. Where once was a happy man sits a broken and frustrated man, watching as he sees his chances of ever getting back into a cockpit fade away. Not only that, he has to watch as he and his fellow officers have to make life and death situations, deciding which targets are ready to live, and which targets need to be decimated.

To make matters worse, the C.I.A. (insert sarcasm at that cliché) has been given authority to start calling the targets for Egan’s team, and the lines between right and wrong pretty much go right out the window as they watch a faceless C.I.A. agent (voiced by Peter Coyote), dictate targets in an emotionless voice. Targets that Majog Egan and the rest of his crew start to raise eyebrows over. What started as a miserable job, turns out to be a moral dilemma that starts a chain reaction in the Major’s life that doesn’t slow down, but escalates into an ending that unfortunately delves into the ludicrous.

The idea behind “Good Kill” is excellent, as it starts out as a character study of the men who operate those big machines up in the sky and are then forced to ground to run drones in an isolated bunker in the U.S., while their plane is half a world away. I can sympathize with these men, as flying is a way of life for them. No one likes being told to give up the thing they love and then sit around, cooped up in a desk for the rest of their military career. It’s frustrating to watch and Ethan Hawke plays the depressed and lifeless Major Egan rather well. He’s become a drunk, his wife is about to leave him, and what little happiness he has left is fading quickly. We see the moral dilemmas weighing heavily on his mind as he’s forced to watch his targets mangled bodies on the screens to make sure they got all the targets and it’s wearing away at his soul. The old phrase comes to mind “never have so little, served so many, for so long”. Burn out happens at an enormously increased pace in the military these days, usually because it has become a career path for many instead of a few tours.

The unhappy twist happens when C.I.A. agent “Langley” takes over the mission control, as he starts making decisions that are intentionally meant to frustrate and anger the viewer into hating him. The politics start showing as we hear Zoe Karvitz’ character spouting out lines like “aren’t we terrorists now”, and trying to point out how “we are the ones perpetuating this conflict. Instead of focusing on the shift of technologies and the effects it has one the servicemen, especially ones who loved their job, and even considering the fact there ARE moral quandaries to be had, it delves very heavily into the arena of political grandstanding. At that point the story start plateauing and started rolling my eyes. Director Andrew Niccol starts out his film with great exit out of the gate, but then just keeps repeating the same points over and over for the rest of the movie instead of fleshing them out. Then when the political points start rolling in the movie sort of stagnates. The REAL complain though is the ending. I won’t spoil WHAT happens, but while the movie itself is a very grounded and well-paced, the ending just goes into a fantasy world that would leave any ex-serviceman (or woman) howling at the complete lunacy of Egan getting away with it (or even leaving base afterwards), which is a sad thing, considering how grounded the whole movie has been.


Rated R for violent content, language, and some sexuality

Video :4stars:
Presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, “Good Kill” looks exceptional, with a nice digitally shot image. Colors are leaning a bit towards the yellow/orange end of the spectrum and detail is very solid. There is some softness to long shots, but the overall clarity of the picture is excellent considering there is a TON of close up shots. Every fiber of hair and clothing looks immaculate and there is not digital artifacting that I could detect in the transfer. Blacks are inky and deep, with minimal washed out moments a teensy bit of crush in a couple of shots. The image itself is solid, but doesn’t ascribe to a demo quality disc.

Audio :4stars:
There is only an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track on the whole disc (no foreign language tracks), and ascribes to the standard drama track level of quality. That means a very nice sounding track, with strong dialog and crisp highs, balanced nicely with some good ambient effects, like Major Egan’s 8 cylinder engine car that he drives (that adds some nice rumble and impact to the film), as well as some of the bustling noises of Las Vegas, or the sound of a Tomahawk missile impacting in Afghanistan. LFE is restrained, but still heavy and weighty when called upon (the afore mentioned car and missiles come to mind), with some nice use of the surround channels. The 5.1 track does everything it’s asked to do with exceptional quality, with the ONLY limitation being that it’s not an action oriented aggressive track. Solid A-.

Extras :halfstar:

• Good Kill : Behind the Scenes

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Good Kill” is a slow burn drama that asks some thought provoking questions, and showcases some solid performances by the leads (even from January Jones who normally can’t act her way out of a paper bag). The only downside to the picture is the lack of development with the initial ideas of the movie as well as some political issues that felt a bit too over clichéd in the delivery. I enjoyed what I saw, and really dug the take on the older generation coming to grips with the realization that their way of doing things was coming to an end, and the aftermath that follows. Just a bit rough on the landing, so to speak. Audio and video are good, but the disc lakes any substantial extras. Definitely a rental if you’re into slow paced dramas.

Additional Information:

Starring: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Written by: Andrew Niccol
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Paramount
Rated: R
Runtime: 103 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 1st 2015

Buy Good Kill On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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