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Hawke & Niccol Shake Venice with ‘Good Kill,’ A 21st-Century Answer to ‘Top Gun’

Hawke & Niccol Shake Venice with 'Good Kill,' A 21st-Century Answer to 'Top Gun'

Director Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca”) once again casts Ethan Hawke as his leading man in Venice entry “Good Kill.” The film, which toes the line between present-day and near-future, focuses on the growing inner turmoil and resultant domestic unrest of a retired fighter-pilot-turned-drone-operator. 

In this (obvious) commentary on modern tactical warfare, Egan (Hawke), encouraged by his colleague Suarez (Zoe Kravitz), begins to question the ethics of targeted killing. And with moral qualm comes marital discontent, as Egan’s wife (January Jones) is irritated to find that her recently reunited home is not a happy one. The Las Vegas backdrop adds to the film’s inquiry into the psychology of dissociation—subject matter from which Niccol seems unable to disconnect.   

The film screens at Toronto this week — where Hawke screens his own documentary “Seymour: An Introduction”– and is will generate further discussion among North American audiences. Here’s what critics are already saying about the timely drama. It appears to be stirring some debate:

The Washington Post: “The ethical cost to a nation and the emotional toll on individuals of America’s new weaponry are explored in ‘Good Kill,’ a sobering 21st-century riposte to ‘Top Gun’ that stars Ethan Hawke as a former combat pilot reassigned to fly missions in Afghanistan from the safety of a trailer in the Nevada desert.”

Variety: “The filmmaking here is as efficient and squared-off as the storytelling, with Amir Mokri’s sturdy lensing capturing the hard, unforgiving light of the Nevada desert, and foregrounding every sharp angle of Guy Barnes’ excellent production design — which makes equally alien spaces of a pod-like military boardroom and the beige, under-loved walls of Egan’s home. Sound work throughout is aces, making a virtue of the sound effects that are eerily absent as those present: In drone warfare, at least in Vegas, no one can hear you scream.”

The Hollywood Reporter: “The screenplay is not immune to overwritten passages in which subtext is forcefully articulated in nuggets of movie-ish dialogue — notably from Greenwood’s principled but by-the-book commanding officer and from Abel’s insensitive jock, in favor of wiping out anything that looks even remotely like an enemy. “Fly and fry” is Zimmer’s unexamined mandate. But there’s psychological meat on the film’s bones, and a compelling cool-headedness to its blurring of the lines that separate the terrorists from the defenders of freedom.”

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