How’d you like to lie back — out of harm’s way, AC blasting — grab a remote and button-push a drone to bomb the shit out of your country’s enemy? Not a game. For real. Screw any collateral damage. That’s the loaded premise behind Good Kill, a potent provocation that keeps gnawing at you. Ethan Hawke digs deep and gives one of his best performances as Tom Egan, a former fighter pilot in Iraq, now assigned to a base near Las Vegas and ordered by his CO (a barking Bruce Greenwood) to bring down destruction on the Taliban. Forget personal consequences. Except, maybe, to his moral conscience.
Writer-director Andrew Niccol, who worked impressively with Hawke on the topic of genetic modification in 1997’s Gattaca, puts a lot out there. There’s Tom’s tortured relationship with his wife (an excellent January Jones) and kids. There’s his feelings about Obama’s drone policy. Tom doesn’t talk much; his co-pilot (Zoë Kravitz) does. And there’s the whole thorny issue of modern warfare and covert surveillance. Will gamers be the pilots of tomorrow? Will death lose its sting? Niccol conjectures all over the place. He’s doing too much, pushing too hard. Condemn the guy or clone him? You be the judge.