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Apr 23 2015

Tribeca: A Good Kill To Backtrack

Further reporting from the festival in Tribeca,here'sJasonon a pair of disparate flicks about Sad-Eyed MenDoing Bad Things.

Good Kill-- If you've seen Andrew Niccol's modern sci-fi classicGattaca(and I hope you have;do you think it will make the second half of TFE's sci-fi countdown?) then you can no doubt summon up that indelible image of Ethan & Uma wandering amid a field of shimmering solar panels at sunrise,a mirrored oasis in the desert.There's nothing that beautiful in Niccol's new filmGood Kill,nor should there be - it's about the dirty science reality of the here and now,not a gleaming future vision - but it nonetheless occupies the same kind of space;removed,floating off the sand like morning evaporation.

But the light is different now;harder - consider us then a vulture mid-flight,or more practically that of a military drone,lasering in on its target.Hawke (whose real-world surname reads as ironic now that I write it out in this context) is a pilot not allowed to fly anymore;whose military career's found itself confined to a metal crate in the Las Vegas desert marked "You Are Now Leaving The United States"where he plays life and death WarGames half a world away,incinerating "enemy combatants"(a term the movie purposefully broadens beyond any meaning) with the flick of his trigger finger.

The hardness that's settled around Ethan Hawke's eyes in the eighteen years sinceGattacacomes in handy in this respect too - repetition and weariness are our subject now;the sunlight itself is diffused by death and destruction,the only thing raining down.A globe covered in sand,with one small sad patch of grass (a repeated shot of Hawke's backyard from above - one square in a patchwork of otherwise dusty browns) feeling more like a blight,an aberration,than either home or comfort.

Backtrack-- When I wrote upmy take-downof the killer-bee moveStungyesterday I talked a bit about where Horror Movies stand these days;how a certain school of low-budget film-making (thatStungdoes not belong to) has found a nifty off-kilter vibe of dread to riff upon.WellBacktrackdoesn't belong to that school either,but for other reasons -Backtrack,whatever it cost,feels costly,bloated,crammed with screaming CG ghosties that pop out at the screen screaming when the director needs to goose us.

It also feels immediately dated - the specter ofThe Sixth Sense(the leather of psychiatry couches ripe spaces for afterlife confessionals) looms large,but it also feels like it was made ten years ago amid the J-Horror remake boom.It fits nicely right in alongside Jennifer Connelly's immediately forgettableDark Water,for example.Needless to say what all that adds up to is a bunch of exposition endlessly reaching backwards for back-story under back-story under back-story,only intermittently remembering to throw some wild-eyed spook our way as it strains for purpose and/or substance.

And what a shame that this is how we're using the terrific Robin McLeavy!If you've never seen 2009's deeply darkly twisted Aussie romanceThe Loved Onesdo yourself a favor;she's a real spark-plug.Robin shows up about halfway intoBacktrackwith her big dark eyes and the movie doesn't have anything for her to do - it actually goes out of its way to neuter her - and that's its scariest accomplishment of all.

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Reader Comments (5)

JA: Gattaca's not bad or anything,but there are too many sci-fi films that are good that have been made that I doubt it's the top 10.I'd expect the final top 10 to look like:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Superman 1 and/or 2
Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
Eternal Sunshine
Under the Skin
(and MAYBE one other)

April 23,2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I've always thought "It's good to be Adrien Brody."He's sexy as all hell,has his Oscar,gets to do whatever little movies he wants.I wish more actors were released from the Oscar chase so early in their careers.Maybe then they'd be more like actresses.

April 23,2015 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

I had heard that Good Kill was more the thinking man's American Sniper...which I guess means it will do no box office like Hurt Locker.

April 23,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I feel like ppl are finally waking up to what a terrific actor Hawke is which is funny considering how many great performances he has given throughout his career.And yes Gattaca is VERY good so definitely deserves consideration for a list (and I think might just make mine) like this by my oh my is the competition steep.The Alien movies,The Terminator movies,The Star Wars movies,Blade Runner,12 monkeys,The first Matrix movie,silly but brilliant Galaxy Quest or The Fifth Element,more modern stuff like Children of Men....etc you can go on forever.

April 24,2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Volvagia: I think Under the Skin and Looper are just too new at this point to compete against the big hitters.Post-2000 (if any make it) the most likely candidates are Children of Men,Minority Report,WALLE & Moon I think.Also,not sure how big Team Experience is on recent academy nominees like Avatar,Gravity & District 9.Also Eternal Sunshine,although fantastic,is NOT what I would consider sci-fi at all - that takes a lot of effort to justify.I'd call it a romance or a drama or a comedy before I'd call it a sci-fi film.Any film that fits into three other genres better should not be called that genre even if there are tiny traces of it within

April 24,2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

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