“ picniccinema.co.uk „
‘This guy must have been a pilot before Ponches!’
Star – Ethan Hawke
Genre – War > Drama
Run Time – 100 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Awards – 1 Nomination
Amazon – £3.00 DVD £3.99 Blue Ray
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Whatever you think about 911 ‘The War on Terror’ has been just as disgusting. The obliteration of a near defenseless Iraq because Saddam had outlived his value to the West by not selling enough oil (and so not buying Western weapons with the proceeds) has been cynically ignored by the media, and the war was probably the hate that triggered Brexit and President Trump, no doubt. The war opened the door to mass immigration to Europe and we just don’t want it and that xenophobia will bring down the EU, Italy close to their referendum now. Bush & Blair have a lot to answer for. Now we fight our wars like cowards, drones at 10,000 feet, firing in Hellfire missiles at wedding parties and traffic jams that may or may not have terrorist’s combatants present, the trigger pressed in sunny Florida and Nevada. Women and children are often present and blown to smithereens in these hits. Good Kill and Ethan Hawke attempts to address that moral question, the third time Hawke and director Andrew Niccol have worked together, the first time being in the intriguing Gattaca (1997).
Ethan Hawke ... Major Thomas Egan
Bruce Greenwood ... Lt. Colonel Jack Johns
Jake Abel ... M.I.C. Joseph Zimmer
Ryan Montano ... Airman Roy Carlos
Dylan Kenin ... Capt. Ed Christie
Fatima El Bahraquy ... The Woman
El Khttabi Abdelouahab ... The Boy
Stafford Douglas ... Billy
Zion Rain Leyba ... Travis Egan
January Jones ... Molly Egan
Sachie Capitani ... Jesse Egan
Michael Sheets ... Danny
Zoë Kravitz ... Airman Vera Suarez
Ross Shaw Ross Shaw ...
Chakir Faiz Chakir Faiz
Major Thomas Egan, a grounded F16 pilot and six tour veteran, has been posted to a USAF drone base just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. His with two young children and hot wife (January Jones) live off-base in manicured new build suburbia and they seem to have a decent life. His current assignment involves flying armed MQ-9 Reaper drones in foreign air space in support of the U.S. War on Terror, his work place a big metal box on the base, 8 of them innocuously lined up on the base. This is his airspace now.
He is respected by his commanding officer and support staff for his calm demeanor, precise flying, and adaptability to any situation. Although not risking his life in those fast jets he does get to kill people, pinging in Hellfire missiles on his designated targets, the order given to pull the trigger by his superior officer, Lt. Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood), an old school type just doing his job.
Privately, Egan is stressed about the job, which he took after being informed the air force were cutting pilots and moving towards drone missions instead. His previous CO informed him that a tour flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would look great on his record and would increase his chances of being posted back to a flying assignment.
On the job and Egan confines to his fellow drone specialist, Airman Vera Suarez (Zoë Kravitz), that he feels a coward using fire and forget missiles from the safety of the Nevada desert. He simply misses the fear of combat, ‘no skin in the game’, as he calls it, and no amount of booze, his beautiful trophy wife and driving his classic muscle car in the open desert can never really replace that buzz.
The pressure ramps up when they are ordered to take occasional jobs from the CIA, which also have targets to be hit around the world, not only Afghanistan and Iraq but the Yemen and Somalia on their list. At first, the new assignment seems stressful but relatively benign. He is assigned to attack more clear-cut terrorist cells, vehicles, and facilities in Afghanistan, but now without clear intelligence the ne targets are still deemed ‘potential terrorists’ and showing a ‘pattern of behavior’’, cognitive strikes ,and on a need to know basis and way off the record. The team is soon questioning themselves and actions and just how legal this all is. Firing in a second missile as the locals try to rescue people is not what they signed up for.
Well, Good Kill is OK. It just not cutting enough for me and not the more critical film on the T.W.A.T (The War Against Terrorism) I had hoped for. Director Niccol leaves it up to the viewer to decide who is right and who is wrong in this very modern warfare with his film. To be fair it is at least scripted with both arguments present. The deal in American war movies is Hollywood get free use of real US Military bases and kit, if they portray the US Military in a ‘positive light’. This one feels restricted that way as the various drone operators argue the morals of what they are doing in a mostly bias pro American foreign policy angle, justifying the sneaky drone attacks as no worse than IEDs. In away they are right but it was only soldiers blown up with IEDs in Afghanistan I recall. These drones fire missiles into people bedroom windows that may or may not be terrorists.
The film is potent enough but the acting is a tad clunky as the film becomes all about Ethan Hawke’s emancipated hero in the 30ft long bomb proof cabin than the actual Deed. The special effects on the operators screens as the Hellfire’s ping into grainy dwellings and four-wheel-drives are impressive and tension packed as you cut back to the operators saying ‘job done’ and go for a T-Break as the wreckage and bodies smolder, the distance between them and the target mentally as large as the physical miles. There is something very perverse about the ability to fire a missile from a drone 10,000 feet above a warzone whilst you are 5 kilometers from the Las Vegas Strip.
Niccol is one of the best film screenplay writers and for a man who penned The Trueman Show, Gattaca and Lord of War, a pretty tasty hatrick, and so you would have expected a little more here in originality and impact. It doesn’t hit your conscious hard enough like those Hellfire’s do a packed Kabul market. It needed to. The Truman Show is just a breathtakingly clever and bold movie whereas Good Kill blunts the sharp ends. The clunky Charlie’s Angels style chat with the CIA over the intercom and Bruce Greenwood’s Lt. Colonel Jack Johns constant barrage of cheesy top Gun lines
Is a very good example of the detail and reality fluffed over here? But Hawke is as excellent as ever, of course, and keeps you interested for the 100 minute run time.
Critics didn’t really go big on Good Kill and nor did the film festivals, only Vienna taking notice with one nomination. The Imdb ratings are also weak and I think that’s because everyone understands the director copped out here and so in the process held the cast back in delivering much stronger performances and so movie. It’s also a rather slow movie and more drama than war film and so don’t expect lots of explosions and warplanes. In fact the film is very sober in its tone and some may even get bored of it.
Its not terrible and always keeps you interested on the detail of how the drone operation works but it refuses to hold anyone too account, and that’s what the film needed for me. Although I haven’t seen Eye in the Sky with Helen Mirren I’m guessing that’s the film this should have been. Goof Kill is worth a look if you want to have an opinion on drone attacks and it contains lots of things to think about. But its no Lord of War.
Imdb.com – 6.4/10.0 (votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 75% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 63% critic’s approval
Ethan Hawke talking head interview about the film and its morals. Hawke is quite intense and took the movie because of the issues. Andrew Niccol is also interviewed.
===Behind the Scenes===
Reasonably interesting stuff as we meet the real drone guys and Hawke openly questions Americas War on Terror.
Washington Post –‘For the most part, "Good Kill" asks pertinent, enduring questions, not by way of polemic, but through the study of a character whose professionalism and competence are given full respect, even when they're challenged by the mission at hand’.
The Mail -‘You know when you see a movie, and you don't hate it, but you don't love it, either?
The Independent –‘This isn't science fiction-it claims to be "based on actual events"-but it feels like it, with its sealed, space capsule-like remote cockpits and disconnection from the field of battle;.
The NY Post –‘A heart-rending drama about drone warfare that proves there never has been, and there never will, be "a good kill."
Chicago Sun Times –‘But the visuals pack a visceral punch. Every time Tom zeroes in on a target, every time he pushes that button, what we see on those monitors is brutally authentic’
Movie Talk –‘The anguish etched on Hawke's face reveals the psychological toll of blowing up flesh and blood, not pixels’.
The Times –‘This thoughtful drama presents real and legitimate questions about drone strikes and smartly lets the audience make their own decisions on these issues’.
I recently went on a camping trip for the weekend to Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. The main reason for the trip was because my friends and I were attending Picnic Cinema and as it was a little bit out of our way we decided to just make a weekend of it.
~~~~~ What is picnic cinema ~~~~~
Picnic Cinema is an initiative run by the Eden Arts Council and part funded by the National Lottery. It aims to raise money to invest in local projects for the rural community and it does this by arranging for special and unique locations around Cumbria to hold outdoor screenings of classic movies in their grounds during July, August and September.
As well as watching a classic movie it also encourages people to bring food and drinks and make a night of it. To make it a bit more special there is a bar serving drinks and food and they have live music before the movie starts.
~~~~~ Locations ~~~~~
This year there were four different locations used for the screenings.
*Greystoke Castle: The Greystoke Castle Estate lies five miles west of Penrith and was the location for the screening of the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like it Hot.
*Brockhole: The Brockhole Visitors Centre on the banks of Lake Windermere was the location for the screening of the musicals Greece and Mama Mia.
Acorn Bank Gardens: Here the film was to be Moulin Rouge.
*Brantwood: The former home of John Ruskin was the location for a screening of Swallows and Amazons.
Hutton in the Forest: The grand country estate was showing Tosca from the Royal Opera House.
*Sleddale Hall: The actual location used in Withnail and I was the location for a showing of the cult classic.
*Grizedale Forest: The location where I went was showing two films on different dates, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Blair Witch Project.
~~~~~~ Grizedale Screening ~~~~~
We chose to go to the Grizedale screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as we thought the location was one of the more unusual and the film itself appealed more to our tastes. Personally I would have preferred to have went and seen The Blair Witch as I had thought that it would have been quite an experience to see it in the middle of a forest. Unfortunately the dates for that didn't work out and although I wasn't overly excited about the movie I was more going for the experience than anything else.
According to our tickets the location was going to be open from 6 with the band playing from 7.15 and the movie starting at dusk.
We set off from our campsite early by car (you will need to drive if you visit next year as the location is out of the way) and arrived at the location of the screening for about 5:45. Apparently the location had changed from its original one the day previously I have no idea why but the new location was well signposted on the road and we had no trouble finding it.
We parked up and made our way to the ticket booth to present our tickets. They checked our tickets and directed us up the road to the screening area. On the way we were met by a couple of people dressed in American army outfits who 'scanned' us to make sure that we weren't possessed by aliens. It was a little cheesy especially their American accents but it was all part of the fun of the night. The whole night had a mashed potato theme which meant absolutely nothing to me until I seen the film but there were a few people who got into the swing of it with some alien masks and some boppers on their heads.
The walk to the screening location took about 10 minutes from where we were parked and it was pretty sedate with no rough terrain. The location was a little less dramatic than I had envisioned in my head and was just a clearing next to the woods and not in it. There were some logs for people to sit on who hadn't brought their own seats, an area set up for the band and a small bar area selling wine and beers as well as some cakes and snacks. We didn't buy any drinks because we had brought our own but they were priced at £2 a glass which is really reasonable for events like this. There were also three portaloos two for women and one for men and it doesn't have anything to do with the film but they were the cleanest portaloos I have ever seen in my life before!
We had brought folding chairs and our own picnic so we found a space in the clearing and set everything up. The clearing wasn't huge but the screenings are all ticketed so they had calculated how much space would be needed and it was pretty much the perfect size.
For an hour or so we just sat around chatting and enjoying the atmosphere along with all the other people at the screening. Everyone was there for a good time and everyone was mingling and chatting with the other people in their vicinity and it was a really nice ambiance.
The band started playing about an hour before the movie and to be completely honest this confused me a little. Jude Connely was the featured singer along with a couple of local musicians helping him out and although he was really good the music wasn't really what I was expecting. I just thought that the music would fit the theme of the film and it really didn't but it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so just sitting in the woods with food and drink listening to a folksy musician.
When it started to get dark the movie started and was shown on a large projector screen. We had worried beforehand that the screen for the film would be tiny but it was a decent size and we had no problem seeing it clearly from near the back. The sound system was also excellent and audio was distributed all over the clearing.
Turns out I hadn't actually seen the film even though before getting there I was convinced that I had and I really enjoyed it.
When the movie ended it was time to pack up and make our way back to the car. This is where a torch came in handy as of course it is in the forest and there were no lights outside of the screening area so it was absolutely pitch black. When we got back to the car we had to wait a while before we could leave as everyone had had to park on the grass verge behind the car in front and as it was a single track road it took quite some time to get out.
Anything to worry about
The only thing that you would need to worry about would be the cold. Although it was early September and had been a gorgeous day as soon as the sun went down it was freezing cold to the point where I couldn't feel my fingers and my breath was coming out as steam. I would really recommend that you take some gloves and a blanket just in case the weather is cold.
The other thing is the terrain. It wasn't difficult and people who have trouble walking should be fine as long as they take it slowly. The only other thing you need to worry about it making sure that you take a torch as it really came in handy for us getting back to the car and also manoeuvring our way to the toilets during the film.
~~~~~ Price and tickets ~~~~~
Tickets for the screening were £11 for adults and £6 for children. You can buy your tickets on the night but you then take the risk that you arrive and it has sold out so I would recommend that you buy in advance especially for the more popular locations and films as the screenings can only hold so many people and once it is at capacity they won't let anyone else in. We bought our tickets from the official website which is www.picniccinema.co.uk and just printed them off at home and presented them on the night. There was a charge for using my credit card buying them online. You can also buy them direct from the venues holding the screenings in advance and also by post if you have enough time.
~~~~~ Would I recommend it ~~~~~
I would most definitely recommend it as it was a fun and enjoyable night and something different than the norm. The location at Grizedale wasn't quite as stunning as I thought but it was still remote enough to be in the middle of nowhere and the atmosphere was amazing. Next year we plan on going again but we are going to see a screening at a different location this time not because the Grizedale one was bad or anything but just to experience it somewhere else as well. I thought £11 was great value for tickets as although you can go to the cinema cheaper this is a more special experience and not one that you will be doing every weekend.
Check out the website and if you are anywhere near Cumbria next year then definitely check out a screening as it really was a fun experience.