Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is part of a team stationed at a Las Vegas airbase where he and his colleagues fly drones over the Middle East, keeping an eye on targets, buildings and occasionally blowing them up. But unlike his colleagues Thomas has had several tours overseas and as such finds what he does now is not fighting the war in the way he wants to, missing actually being in the air. Spending hour after hour staring at monitors and watching people including watching a woman be raped leaves him questioning what he is doing especially when his team finds themselves working for the CIA. But this leads to tension when ever he returns home as deep down he wants to return to flying jets whilst his wife wants him to stay home. It also leads to him becoming depressed and drowning his misery in drink.
Imagine that you trained to do a certain job and you were good at it, but then things changed and you find yourself stuck doing something which is eating away at you, making you feel depressed. Or imagine you were a star footballer playing in attack but then find yourself being replaced and when not on the subs bench you find yourself playing in a position which doesn't fulfil you. Now dial up the intensity of what you do for a living and what you have is "Good Kill", an Andrew Niccol movie, a movie based in the world of the military and those who fly drones thousands of miles away, following orders and dropping bombs which whilst taking out targets also takes out innocent lives.
Now there is no denying that "Good Kill" is an interesting drama as we are presented with this world where whilst you might be physically detached from those you kill it still effects you emotionally especially when it comes to those who end up as collateral damage. But "Good Kill" is really not about the job but about how it affects Thomas Egan and his situation. On one level we see him struggle with doing a job he didn't sign up to do, staring at a monitor all day especially when there are many days where that is all he does even having to watch helplessly the violation of a woman. We also see how the killing of innocent lives eats away at him, rationalizing that by doing so they are just pushing more people to become terrorists. And of course we see how it leads to tension at home as his yearning to fly again whilst the stress of the job makes him increasingly difficult to live with and an alcoholic. All three aspects effectively build to Thomas making some bad decisions and feeling a need to take matters into his own hands.
The thing is then that for all the tension we get in "Good Kill" as we watch Thomas and the others do their jobs what we really watch is Thomas losing it, drinking more and more, question his job more and more, dealing with the mess of his personal life and becoming distracted as well as angry and irrational. It is still a good movie but in many ways might not be what an audience expect even though once again Ethan Hawke delivers another powerful performance.
What this all boils down to is that "Good Kill" is an interesting look at a man struggling with work, his personal life and what he has to do each day. But it is a movie which despite being filled with tension is simply an observation on a man struggling.