Good Kill Film Review
Reuniting writer/director Andrew Niccol with his Gattaca star Ethan Hawke, Good Kill is a low-key, minimalist study of drone warfare and the toll it takes on the people ordered to pull the trigger.Veteran fighter pilot Thomas Egan is now an accomplished drone pilot who is just desperate to get back in a real cockpit. However hard he tries, however good he is, his remote strikes still occasionally result in collateral damage. It plays on his conscience, it fractures his marriage, and it takes its toll. But when his commanding officer receives new orders to pass control of the latest flurry of missions over to the CIA, the operations become increasingly dubious; the strikes increasingly dirty, raising questions about whether or not the tactics employed are actually any different from the actions of the very terrorists that they are taking out, and whether or not there really is any point to what they do. Are they fighting a war or merely fuelling it; inspiring ten dedicated new recruits every time they wipe an innocent soul off the planet.With plenty to think about, Good Kill is more a psychological study of battlefield trauma than the ‘Top Gun with drones’ some may have expected. In many respects, it goes one step further than Eastwood’s own study of the cost of war, American Sniper, even though – on the whole – this is a far less accomplished film. With a limited runtime and limited scope too, the study of the life of this one troubled soul is only painted in broad strokes; snapshots that are constrained by the same scope that made it such an interesting premise to begin with. Hawke is excellent, as you would only expect, and is ably supported by the ever-reliable Bruce Greenwood (Flight, Star Trek), January Jones and Zoe Kravitz (who both appeared in X-Men: First Class and even though this isn’t another classic from Niccol in the vein of Gattaca, it still makes for a solid, thoughtful watch.
Good Kill comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray in an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
Boasting some truly impeccable daytime sequences – flawless renditions of stunning blue skies and off-base suburbia – Good Kill finds it harder to match the pristine quality during the dominant interiors of the drone control room, where softness drifts in and clarity struggles to rein supreme. Anything not in broad daylight is also twinged with blue-green hues, a not unfamiliar style, although skin tones still remain warm and healthy for the most part, and black levels are strong and deep. The drone footage itself is impressive, although inherently doesn’t require quite the same level of precision and, overall, it’s a very good effort which just about edges demo status through those aforementioned exteriors, although it’s not necessarily a consistent effort.
The accompanying DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is far more resolutely demo-worthy, and provides a strong backing for the proceedings.
Dialogue remains prevalent throughout, clear and coherent across the fronts and centre channels, whilst effects are keenly observed, allowing for some authentic drone sounds, electronic buzz, and American muscle car engine growls. There’s one striking aerial sequence too, and the effects allow for strong surround output throughout. It’s the score, though, that truly excites and engages, underpinning the more introspective, or emotional sequences, whilst helping to crank up the tension when there’s a finger on the trigger.
Aside from some previews on start-up, the extras are limited to interviews with director Niccol and lead Hawke, as well as a short Behind-the-Scenes featurette.
Good Kill Blu-ray Verdict
Good Kill presents a surprisingly thoughtful look at the toll of drone warfare, and indeed warfare of any kind.
Whilst it has its limitations, fans of Niccol (there's much to enjoy even with his flawed-but-great-concept In Time) and the ever-reliable Hawke, who's had a run of nice leading roles recently, will want to check this out. This strong release from Arrow, boasting largely impressive video and excellent audio, makes the choice a whole lot easier.
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