Capsule Review Film Review

TIFF Capsule Review: Good Kill

September 10, 2014Ben Mk


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Battlefields and Blackjack...

Somewhere in the Nevada desert, the men and women of the U.S. Air Force's 61st Attack Squadron suit up daily and venture deep into enemy territory, flying missions over Afghanistan, Africa, or wherever there's a war to be fought. And they do this without ever leaving the safety of an air-conditioned cubicle — all thanks to drone technology. Some new recruits would kill for the opportunity. But for Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke), the power to pull the trigger from 7,000 miles up in the sky raises serious ethical questions about the value of human life — and what it means to take one away.

   

Up until recently, Thomas never gave a second thought to his duties as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilot, other than the fact that it made him long for his days in the cockpit of an F-16. But that was because he knew who the enemy was. That all changes, however, once he and co-pilot Vera Suarez (Zoë Kravitz) begin helming covert missions for the C.I.A. Suddenly, their directives become exclusively about proactively "prosecuting" targets who've yet to commit any real crime, and the black-and-white line separating them from the terrorists begins to dissolve into the moral grey.

Writer/director Andrew Niccol's (Gattaca, Lord of War) up-close-and-personal look at the lives of drone operators places the audience squarely in their combat boots, while Hawke's intense performance — as a man who's not only burdened with the guilt from his actions on the battlefield but who's also strained by growing tensions on the homefront — shows us the psychological toll that the job can take. And though it's set in the reality of the War on Terror, circa 2010, the story remains just as topical today — if not more so — prompting the question: if this is what modern warfare has become, does the end justify the means?  Ben Mk





Good Kill receives its North American premiere as part of TIFF 2014's Special Presentations programme and is currently scheduled for a 2015 release by Remstar Films. Photo credit: Remstar Films.




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