Written, produced and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show) Good Kill is an inspired movie that should be seen for its thought-provoking take on US military involvement abroad. It stars Ethan Hawke as a bitterly disillusioned drone pilot.

US air force pilot Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) has served on various flying missions abroad, on F-16s in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he now finds himself manning drone strikes on Afghanistan from an airbase in the Nevada desert, near Las Vegas. 

In theory, this might be great for his personal life - he can live at home with his wife and two children, technically safe from enemy fire. Work is just a short drive each day to the air base with an intimate little chamber where he takes his seat each day to try and achieve the 'Good Kill' of the title.

For a 12-hour stretch, he sits in front of the screen that can show him settlements in Waziristan in intimate detail before he and his fellow pilots' bomb strikes kill targeted militants and the unlucky civilians who happen to be nearby.

Following orders from his superior, Lt. Colonel Johns (Bruce Greenwood) he takes the remote control in his right hand, sets his sights on a house and drops the payload, counting down the ten seconds until it hits its target. Respected for a cool head by Greenwood, he dresses in full US air-force pilot uniform, as do his fellow air force cadets. When he joins them inside the claustrophobic control capsule, a sign even tells him he is leaving US territory.

However, Egan begins to sense the strange unreality of it all, the weird pretence that creates the illusion that he is for all intents and purposes flying over rebel-held Afghanistan, when in fact he is in the baking desert of Nevada. Moreover, Las Vegas, with all its dubious attractions, is all too near.

Tension arises at home as he becomes distracted and remote, traumatised by the nature of what he is doing. He begins to drift apart, and covertly swigs from a bottle of vodka. His wife, Molly (January Jones) tells him that he is in effect more absent than he was when he was away on flying missions.

The romantic allure of flying is no longer available to him, he feels inferior and also unfairly protected. The pilots who go on the real sorties over Afghanistan, 7,000 miles away, get the public sympathy, they are the heroes who risk their lives and often lose them.

The moral fall-out from what the drone pilots do are aired sardonically by each of the team. Yet what stays with the viewer is Major Egan's traumatised, haunted features, as he keeps his counsel, opting out of the debates about the rights and the wrongs of it all.

Greenwood is strong as the disillusioned superior officer who has no illusions about the work the pilots are doing and he is utterly cynical about the military administration. If the drone control work saves him from having to inform a family that their son has just died in a bombing mission in Afghanistan, then he is able to endure the job.

Written, produced and directed by Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show) Good Kill is an inspired movie that should be seen for its thought-provoking take on US military involvement abroad.

Paddy Kehoe