"Is Drone Warfare Morally Just?"
GOOD KILL is the story of a US drone pilot and Catholic family man who starts to feel attacks of conscience for his job. GOOD KILL has a strong Christian, moral worldview undercut by some immoral content requiring extreme caution. There is also some tension between the protagonist and his wife because of the stress from his job.
In the movie, Ethan Hawke plays Thomas Egan, a Catholic family man who works as a drone pilot on a US base outside of Las Vegas, but who used to be a pilot in actual jets fighting over Iraq. Thomas feels guilty that he no longer risks his own life in combat. He also feels guilty that he appears to have an unfair advantage in his current job with drones, where he and other pilots sit in a small bunker and watch alleged terrorists in various Middle Eastern territories while waiting for a command to bomb, or “splash,” them into oblivion. As his stress increases, a new female drone pilot is introduced to the small bunker of men with whom he works, and he soon finds that they share their guilty feelings about what they’re asked to do.
Meanwhile, Thomas is hurting his marriage and family at home by bottling his stress inside and drinking too much. The deftly compelling and touching script by writer-director Andrew Niccol (who wrote THE TRUMAN SHOW and wrote and directed GATTACA and LORD OF WAR) weaves together the job and home lives of Thomas into a slowly building tension, as he’s forced to decide whether to keep doing his job or to break free and try to find an entirely new way of life to support his family.
The most impressive aspect of GOOD KILL lies in the fact that, unlike countless other Hollywood movies, its points are conveyed with subtlety rather than being heavy-handed. Republicans are not singled out in any way as ‘bad guys,” nor Democrats as the “good guys,” as the drone programs in the Middle East have fallen now under the control of presidencies of both parties. The movie simply points out the stress that even these “video game” pilots suffer because of the fact that they’re expected to fire bombs on command from unseen men in the CIA headquarters, with no right to debate or talk back about the surrounding concerns of a bombing.
The performances across the board are sympathetic, revealing and powerfully done. Hawke in particular shows a decent man fighting hard to maintain that decency, even in the face of losing his sanity and values. Writer/Director Andrew Niccol (GATTACA) ultimately has crafted a thought-provoking film that has arrived in the midst of a timely debate about the use of drones, and how mankind will conduct the next wave of warfare with 21st Century technology.
GOOD KILL is a movie for mature viewers fascinated by current events and the impact of futuristic technology. There is, however, some gratuitous foul language and other lewd references and potentially objectionable content, so extreme caution is advised.
(C, BB, Pa, FR, LLL, VV, SS, N, AA, DD, MM) Light Christian worldview with moral elements questioning the morality of “soulless” drone attacks on terrorists that inevitably result in civilian casualties (protagonist and his family seem to be Catholic with crucifix on their wall), mitigated by some immoral pagan behavior, plus some reference to Muslim beliefs; at least 39 obscenities (mostly “f” and “s” words), seven strong profanities, and eight light profanities; numerous shots of explosions caused by drone strikes against alleged terrorists and their hideouts, Muslim man who raped a woman is eventually deliberately blown up by a drone, married couple engage in a shouting match, and husband punches the wall with his fist; depicted marital sex in brief scene, drone video shows man raping woman, men visit strip club, and some men go off for a lap dance, but nothing is shown, married protagonist avoids cheating on his wife, but the possibility exists; no nudity shown; alcohol use and abuse; smoking and brief mention of cocaine, but nothing is shown; and, man is emotionally estranged from his wife and loses his temper at one point, but the tension comes from stress at his job, and he’s determined to fix the problem and repair his relationship at the end.
GOOD KILL stars Ethan Hawke as Thomas Egan, a Catholic family man who works as a drone pilot on a US base outside Las Vegas. Thomas used to pilot actual jets fighting over Iraq and feels guilty he no longer risks his own life in combat. He also feels guilty that he appears to have an unfair advantage because he and his fellow pilots sit unharmed in a small bunker while waiting for a command to bomb, or “splash,” alleged terrorists into oblivion. The stress in his job is making Thomas drink too much and puts stress on his relationship with his wife.
GOOD KILL has a compelling and touching script that weaves together the job and home lives of Thomas into a slowly building tension. Eventually, Thomas must decide whether to keep doing his job or to break free and try to find an entirely new way to support his family. As such, GOOD KILL has a strong Christian, moral worldview. This is undercut, however, by some strong foul language and other lewd, immoral content. Extreme caution is therefore advised.