During World War II, Frank Capra wanted to serve his country using the skills at his disposal, so he contributed to the patriotic documentary series Why We Fight. That title almost predicts Andrew Niccol’s more cynical project, Good Kill, because he could’ve easily titled it HOW We Fight.
The film takes place in 2010. A world-weary Ethan Hawke plays Major Thomas Egan, a grounded F-16 pilot in a depression spiral because he "fights" the Taliban from a control room outside of Las Vegas (Bruce Greenwood makes a vivid impression as his no-bullshit commanding officer).
Like gamers, Egan’s team uses consoles to operate drones that result in deaths—except they’re real people, not pixels. At first, they’re “good kills,” but when the CIA gets involved, all bets are off. Egan’s relationship with his wife (January Jones) falters, his drinking escalates, and an attractive colleague (Zoë Kravitz, Mad Max’s tiniest teammate) becomes increasingly more attractive.
As war movies go, there’s less action and more character development, but Good Kill, like Alex Garland’s recent Ex Machina, shows what can happen when humans put too much faith in machines to do their living, loving, and killing. If it doesn't hit the same heights as Gattaca and Lord of War, this is a step in the right direction for Niccol after In Time and The Host.