Today, I came across a jewel. It was the breathtaking movie trailer for Good Kill. The trailer was posted on random social media sites, so I am somewhat positive you have come across it. And, you may already have your opinion about it; here is mine.
The movie, Good Kill, features a former F-16 pilot turned RPA (Remote Piloted Aircraft; AKA UAV, drone, etc.) pilot struggling with the intricacies of his new duty. It also promotes the newest generation of USAF pilots, young gamers recruited at malls, or so claims in the movie a Senior Officer, who appears to be holding a hands-on type of command of an RPA Squadron in Nevada. The trailer uses RPA footage with voice communications, air to ground missile attacks, but most importantly, the PTSD that the main character is enduring.
Ethan Hawke plays the leading role of RPA pilot, Maj Thomas Egan. I personally like what Hawke has done in the past as an actor; he was great in Training Day, liked his role in Lord of War, but my favorite movies of his are Great Expectations and Dead Poet’s Society. I really do not care much of where an actor sits politically; most of them are entertainers, so I view them as such. Bruce Greenwood appears to be the in the supporting role as Lt Col Jack Johns who guides Egan through his new ventures as a pilot away from the cockpit. Besides being Canadian, Greenwood played pretty good roles in the latest remaking of Star Trek. While the movie has no release date in the US, it made its premier in the Toronto International Film Festival. Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a rating of 67%. I am willing to bet the USAF dropped some money into this film. They are considering giving RPA pilots a retention bonus, which in the past has been up to $25,000 a year. This movie is going to be a great recruiting tool to attract nerdy want-be-cool kids into the USAF because they are not only targeting Officers but Enlisted folk, as well. After all, nowadays the USAF has three priorities: Cyber Space, RPAs and the stupid F-35 (that is a rant for another day). Using Hollywood to glorify the life of the RPA pilot is a great move, although not popular in the real tactical world.
I would venture to say that most war veterans do not find war movies all that cool, mainly because they are unrealistic. Few war movies have a place in the heart of the combat veteran. Although I find Tom Cruise to be a “big” piece of shit, I still love the movie, The Last Samurai. It is in my Top 5 war movies. It seems that “tactical movies” are starting to gain popularity amongst film producers, especially about SEALs, but let’s not go there today. As a TACP I want to see a JTAC movie, so every time I see on the big screen the slightest reference to any air to ground weapon employment, I initially get excited, and then of course, disappointed. No difference with the trailer. The first disappointment comes when the words “Roger That” are used over the radio. This is poor radio etiquette, and I condemn the usage of it by other JTACs or Aircrew. The phrase, “You are Clear Hot. Light them up!” makes my ears bleed. The term “Clear Hot” is not a catch phrase; it means there is a bunch of hate coming down from the sky. No other silliness is needed such as “Bring the Rain!” (I am looking at you Tyrese!) Yet, the part of the trailer that makes watching Kristen Stewart movies a pleasantry is when they say “Warheads on foreheads” which no self respecting JTAC or Aircrew will ever say seriously. Anyway, it is really easy to mock the footage of the trailer. To me the daftest catch phrase used is by Greenwood when he says, “They don’t call it hellfire for nothing.” I will make sure to use this line as much as possible when I need a good laugh.
The Middle Ground
The trailer depicts Maj Egan suffering from PTSD. In a sympathetic fashion, I can relate to this character. I have not spent my entire life as a TACP downrange. I have had some nice long breaks from deployments, and truth is I have missed combat from time to time. I can understand the frustration of the pilot being yanked from the cockpit and potentially being forced into the RPA world. Some Fighter Pilots can really act out when pulled from the jet. I know because they once were the main source of Officers in the TACP world. PTSD is not a laughing matter, yet the RPA world has been ridiculed many times from claiming the disorder, which I do not find fair. I will also say that it is not the same cleaning brain matter from your boots rather than sitting down for countless hours in a tiny box shooting missiles at people from the sky. However, stress can affect people differently. These people work long hours, and they are not able to put distance between them and their families when they are doing their job. When I am downrange, I can be that other person and turn the switch off on my way home so I can be “me” when I get to my family. I can see how the lack of decompression can drive some of these people to experience PTSD. This is not a dick measuring issue; it is a real problem.
I cannot wait to see the movie and have a good laugh. I hate to admit it, but the drama part of the movie appeals to me. I will also use the movie as ammunition to make fun of RPA pilots who think they are going to turn my Air Force into the movie set of Revenge of the Nerds 3. On that note, what are your Top 5 military/war movies? Let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook page. These are mine: 1) Schindler’s List 2) Hamburger Hill 3) The Last Samurai 4) Platoon 5) Bravo Two Zero.
Sam is the only USAF TACP JTAC with a confirmed kill while manning the Space Shuttle LASER turret. He once slapped Dog the Bounty Hunter in the face after eating 30 devil eggs in one sitting without using his hands. Sam spends his free time perfecting underwater basket weaving. @Sam_Patrick_67