The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Form matches content in “Good Kill,” a movie about the desensitizing effects of drone warfare. Repeated, suffocating scenes of remote warfare make you acutely aware of the soul-draining despair felt by its pilot protagonist.

That makes writer-director Andrew Niccol’s achievement notable, even if his movie sometimes feels as stifling as the shipping container that Air Force pilot Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) and his team occupy in the desert outside Las Vegas.

Egan works a 12-hour shift flying unmanned aerial vehicles over Afghanistan and Yemen, performing surveillance and launching missiles toward sites that may (or may not) be occupied by Taliban forces. There’s a lot of killing, all of it deemed “good” and “necessary.” When he’s done, Egan drives home to the suburbs to his wife (January Jones) and kids, puts some burgers on the grill and helps with homework.

The contortions needed to make that kind of compartmentalization work are nearly impossible for a man like Egan, a veteran of six tours, a pilot who misses the fear of combat and, yes, flying an actual plane — an idea that Niccol, showing F-16s gathering dust on the base, implies is almost ludicrous.

“We’ve got no skin in the game,” Egan tells his commander (Bruce Greenwood). “I feel like a coward every day.”

Though Egan is a man of few words (he becomes even quieter when he’s angry, his wife tells a friend), the movie makes up for his reserve by explaining and informing to a fault. You will possess a clearer understanding of the ins and outs, the pros and cons of drone warfare after viewing “Good Kill,” but the arguments sometimes feel like talking points awkwardly wedged into the action.

Where Niccol (“Gattaca”) succeeds is in creating an atmosphere of self-loathing, both for those manning the drones and the audience watching them work. Midway through the movie, the CIA takes over command of the missions, ordering a series of killings that are debatable on moral and strategic grounds. (“Permission to prosecute” is the dispassionate order coming from Langley in a voice that feels modeled on HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”) Niccol conveys this chilling disconnect, showing how the ease of their actions absolves the participants of responsibility and robs them of their humanity.

That cost can be seen in the tight strain on Hawke’s face. An actor with the gift of gab (most notably in his collaborations with Richard Linklater), Hawke here delivers a nuanced turn as a man on the threshold of emotional ruin. It’s not that Egan opposes war. He’s begging to be shipped out for another tour. He just can’t wrap his head around what war has become.

“Drones aren’t going anywhere,” says his commander. “In fact, they’re going everywhere.”

“Good Kill” forces us to deal with the implications of that new reality.
___
“GOOD KILL”

MPAA rating: R, for language, sexuality, violent content including rape
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sixteen states vying for the early slots in 2024’s presidential primary calendar pitched their case to the Democratic National Committee onWednesday and Thursday, touting their history, diversity, economies, and electoral competitiveness in the general election.

State party officials, a governor, lt. governors, an attorney general, members of Congress, senior staff and party strategists touted their electorates, industries, heritage, and features that would propel presidential candidates and draw national scrutiny, which pleased the officials on the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC). But the panel’s leaders also probed whether Republicans in otherwise promising states would seek to impede a revised Democratic primary calendar.

Keep reading... Show less

Supreme Court

YouTube Screenshot

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was confronted over his support for the bipartisan bill addressing elements of gun violence, he defended his Second Amendment record, telling reporters: “I spent my career supporting, defending and expanding” gun rights, and stressing that he had “spent years” confirming conservative judges. McConnell made that statement in full confidence that the Supreme Court he packed with three illegitimate justices would do precisely what it did: ensure that sensible gun regulations anywhere would be eliminated.

The court decided the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen case Thursday in 6-3 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, striking down that state’s 108-year-old provision requiring anyone who wants to get a license to carry a concealed handgun outside the home to show “proper cause” before being granted a permit. The Court’s extremists, Thomas writes, find that New York's strict limits on the concealed carry of firearms in public violates the Second Amendment. It essentially throws out the previous restrictions the Court upheld in its last big gun control case, the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}