Review: Good Kill

“Keep compartmentalizing” is a piece of advice from a commanding officer to his ace pilot. This is darkly humourous, intelligent screenwriting because these drone-piloting soldiers spend 12 hours a day literally inside a box, albeit an air-conditioned one filled to the brim with technology, with fresh coffee available if needs be.

A day of drone warfare fought, the service men and women leave the base and go home to BBQ with their family and drink beer in the nearby Las Vegas suburb, a pebble-lawned stretch of cookie cutter banality not far away from the dazzling gratuitousness of The Strip. Things go from grim but necessary to deeply disturbing slowly but inevitably, and often didactically, in Good Kill.

The film focuses on Major Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke), a former F-16 pilot and a veteran of many tours. He is now ‘grounded’ in the tiny box on wheels enacting a play-station war; one of low risk of physical harm (barring carpal tunnel syndrome) on which he compensates by making the damage 100% psychological. Egan’s icy disposition and years of experience make him one of the current top performers in piloting drones.

Hawke’s performance is miles apart from his life-long work with Richard Linklater, not to mention as different as possible from the testosterone meathead cinema-depictions of fighter pilots in thrill oriented blockbusters like Top Gun and its numerous copy cats. Egan ignores the gung-ho nature of the two tech support co-workers, the young guys that keep the communications to the remotely piloted aircraft humming along. Egan is quietly respectful of the competence of his equally young female co-pilot (Zoë Kravitz) while carrying out any order from his commanding officer (Bruce Greenwood, who gets all the good lines and let’s face it, is a national goddamn treasure).

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Trailer for Stylish War Documentary ARMADILLO

 

 

There are no English subtitles on the trailer for war documentary, Armadillo, but the selling point here is that the film is shot to be as cinematic as possible whilst still being right on the ground with the soldiers. Visually, it looks like the filmmakers have achieved their goal, the film even took top honors in the Cannes Film Festival Critics Week sidebar where it was the lone documentary screened amongst fictional feature films. There are some handsome images and stylish presentation here, not surprising as the film hails from Denmark which is one of the more consistently interesting regions of the world for quality cinema. The TIFF catalogue has this to say about the film:

The film follows Danish soldiers fighting the Taliban in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan. We’ve grown accustomed in the last decade to depictions of improvised explosive devices, missile strikes and other remote control warfare. But in Armadillo (named for the platoon’s base camp) we’re plunged into close combat that evokes wars of past eras, particularly Vietnam […] Armadillo has already stirred political debate in Denmark over the rules of engagement and raised calls for a military investigation. The film raises discussion on many levels: how recruits are conditioned to become warriors; how the international force conducts itself in Afghanistan; how an insurgency defies technical superiority; and how soldiers grow addicted to the adrenaline of war.

The trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Review: Brothers

Director: Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, In America, Get Rich or Die Tryin’)
Screenplay: David Benioff
Producers: Ryan Kavanaugh, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Michael De Luca
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Taylor Geare, Bailee Madison, Clifton Collins Jr., Sam Shepard, Mare Winningham
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 110 min.

Melodrama:
–noun
1. a dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization.

Within this category, from this definition, Brothers certainly does not fit. Simply because the reactions and emotional motivation expressed by these characters in light of their situation are not exaggerated nor does it diminish the characterization for the sake of plot. Some quite brutal, confusing and varied circumstances surround these characters throughout the picture and quite certainly the emotions can be sympathized with. If anything, the performances almost don’t go far enough in portraying the sadness, heartbreak, confusion and traumatic stress these characters undergo.

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