You can call Andrew Niccol a lot of things, but you really can’t call him cowardly. In an age where reality seems like an oppressive world more suited to the movies than our own lives, Niccol remains one of the sole American filmmakers interested in actually discussing the issues that plague our socio-economic times. Weirdly enough, Niccol has been dismissed as a subpar filmmaker, but decades from now when we need to find a film that speaks to where we were at the turn of the century, would it be a surprise to reach for a Niccol film?
His latest has been in development without a name, but it’s now going under the provocative title Good Kill. And now the person doing the good killing will be January Jones, according to Deadline. The Mad Men vet will be playing the wife to Ethan Hawke, who will star as a former pilot who now operates military drones from afar, piloting them for twelve hours a day, then, according to the synopsis, goes home and "feuds with his wife and kids for the other twelve." So, wait… it’s a sitcom?
On one hand, the plot description, where Hawke asks himself "if he is creating more terrorists" in a "war without end," seems sort of… vague? Doesn’t everybody who is implicit in the "War On Terror" (which is to say, most everybody) wonder the exact same thing? Does he… do something about this? Is it in any way relevant that he has laser-sharp precision in killing bad guys from afar, but can’t seem to straighten out his family life? Does that seem like a heavily simplified outlook on the military’s controversial (often illegal) drone program? The synopsis revealed by Deadline, which seems scattershot and hard-to-place, also specifies that he’s fighting "the Taliban" via drone strikes. Oh, if only it were that simple!
But who else is addressing the issue of military drones on film today? If you see them, it’s usually in a rah-rah function, some badass robots doing badass things. If they’re employed for nefarious reasons, like in stuff like Elysium or the recent Terminator Salvation, it’s usually in a futuristic manner completely divorced from our current climate, with a generous undercurrent of, "Yeah, that’s badass." It’s NOT divorced from real life anymore, and it’s NOT just a tool of the "bad guys." Presenting that in a matter-of-fact way will go a long way towards making Good Kill an interesting picture. And as far as plot mechanics, it would be rewarding if this was anything like Niccol’s Lord of War, a film that delved deeply into the politics involved in the global arms trade that also believably showed how someone would enter that world. Putting a face, particularly one like Hawke’s, on the drone operations, is the first step towards further complicating, and enriching, the drama inherent in how the government kills from afar.
Jones joins a cast that includes Zoe Kravitz, Jake Abel and, as Hawke’s mentor (what else?), Bruce Greenwood. Niccol is writing and directing, and with a leg of shooting completed in Morocco, the production is shifting to New Mexico. Jones is currently still a member of the Mad Men cast as that series winds down, and was recently seen in the western Sweetwater where she held her own opposite the imposing duo of Ed Harris and Jason Isaacs. Theoretically, she’s also still signed for further X-Men adventures, though she appears to be absent from X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
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