Andrew Niccol’s (GATTACA, IN TIME) GOOD KILL is being touted as the first major Hollywood war movie specifically “about” post-9/11 drone warfare, which one can (cynically) assume is coming out now because we’re almost on to the next election and it’s now that much less lightning-rod-y to criticize a war-fighting method that’s seen (fairly or not) as belonging uniquely to the Obama Era rather than as a Bush/Cheney holdover.
Ethan Hawke stars as an oldschool fighter pilot who, with the demand for his actual flight skills waning, reluctantly joins a squad of joystick-jockeys blowing up Taliban/Al-Qaeda/ISIS/etc (it’s unclear what time period/enemy-cycle this takes place in) from the comfort of a stateside cubicle:
What’s interesting about the trailer is that the emotional/moral focus seems to be more about the hero feeling like this detached/no-risk version of war fighting is somehow less “fair” or righteous than doing the same basic thing but from an actual plane, which is certainly a… unique way to go about the “old soldier questions his values” story-arc.
You’ve got to wonder how far (or in what direction) this aims to go: You can easily imagine, from this trailer, the main narrative being that this “Real Soldier” tested/trained by “Real Combat” gradually becomes horrified by the callous cruelty of a new generation that sees this as one big video game and striking back against that mindset i.e. “MY warfare was good because we had real men taking real risks – this is… something else!” (Supposedly that was the basic storyline for Maverick in the once-again stalled TOP GUN sequel.)
…OR is this one going the even darker, more difficult route of the impersonal nature of drone-piloting causing Hawke’s character to realize that – removed from the visceral thrill of actual flying and the nominal risk of injury to his own person – maybe the war-fighting he’d dedicated his whole life and being to wasn’t as righteous and good as he’d believed it to be?
I’m guessing it’s the first one – the John Henry vs. The Steam Drill “aging noble hero versus the cold technology replacing him” narrative is a powerful siren’s call, particularly for leading men themselves of advancing age. Early reviews have been mixed, but with Niccol (who could really use a hit at this point) directing it should at least look pretty good.