In less than two decades, “The Truman Show” and “Gattaca” have become relics. Hold them up, in all their mind-bending glory, and you might feel a pang of nostalgia for a bygone era when studios bankrolled movies made for adults who like their entertainment with a side of smarts.
Andrew Niccol wrote both of those films, scoring an Oscar nomination for “Truman.”
Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that Niccol focused his latest story on another professional who’s starting to feel obsolete. “Good Kill” follows Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke), a military pilot whose assignment takes him out of the cockpit and into an trailer in the desert of Las Vegas. He spends his days bombing terrorists 7,000 miles away. He’s a drone pilot. He can go home to his wife and kids every night, and the job pays the bills. The only thing is: He hates the soul-crushing nature of his work.
He’s utterly disconnected from the reality of war. When he presses a button to send a bomb plummeting onto an insurgent in Yemen, there’s no sound, just silence accompanying an image of a dusty blast. “Splash,” the drone pilots say. “Good kill.”
Hawke had heard a lot about drones but didn’t give much thought to the people controlling them. But once he did, he saw some parallels to that reality and everyone else’s.
Tom has no ethical issues with the war on terror. The problem is the way his country is using him. He’s overqualified for his post. And that also struck a chord for Hawke.
“I know actors that end up spending seven years and making a fortune on some TV show where they say one line a week,” he said. “These are people that went to Yale drama, and they’re miserable because they’re atrophying.”
Hawke’s strength is dramatic acting, and that job is disappearing as quickly as the military pilot population. Studios want sure bets – genre films easy to market and easier to digest.