By Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
‘Good Kill’…is there any such thing?
Drone strikes. It was inevitable Hollywood would take up this part of the wars the US has been fighting for nearly this entire century.
‘Good Kill’ is to be praised for its handling of this subject. It poses questions surrounding ethics, morals, and effects on the US standing in the world from this type of warfare.
“Don’t ask me if this is a just war,” says the commanding officer of the unit of remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), “it’s just war.”
Ethan Hawke and January Jones play a married couple living in suburban Las Vegas (although it was shot in New Mexico). Hawke is an Air Force colonel who commutes to the war every day. He drives to his base in Nevada where he flies UAVs over Afghanistan, Yemen, and other areas considered threats to US interests. When his shift is over he drives home to his wife and two children.
But sometimes he doesn’t. He may take the long way downing a swig or two of vodka. Or he may pull up across the street from a Nevada mosque after have just bombed a neighborhood a Muslim country. The colonel tells his wife that he misses combat air missions. “I miss the fear,” he tells a colleague.
But does he? Or is it that the UAV camera allows him to see the faces of those he is about to kill? Combat pilots never see the destruction they release up so close.
Zoe Kravitz plays an airman who “lights up” the target for the laser guided missiles to be so accurate. Her character asks all the tough questions about US tactics being just like the terrorists, that our strikes are making it easier to recruit jihadists.
Her questioning seems to strike the conscience of the colonel. He’s balking at following orders when the CIA starts calling the shots—literally. Watching him struggle is painful and refreshing at the same time.
The cinematography is brilliant. The juxtaposition of drone aerial video of the targets and the high shots of the desert neighborhood where our characters live are ingenious. The crucifix on the wall above the bed in our characters’ master bedroom is prominent in many shots.
And the wrestling with differing political and philosophical points of view among the crew makes for a must-see movie. It could either challenge or change what you think of this war on terror. Or both.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, we both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels.