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'Good Kill' Brings the Drone War Home

Motherboard talks to Ethan Hawke about his new movie, which shows the psychological toll drone warfare takes on pilots.

by Jason Koebler
May 15 2015, 1:46pm

Screengrab: Good Kill

*This podcast contains spoilers for the movie Good Kill*

Two years ago, the Pentagon proposed awarding America's best drone pilots with a medal, just like those who fight in active war zones. At the time, politicians and America freaked out—how could someone who fights in a war from a trailer in Las Vegas or North Dakota possibly face the same horrors as someone in Afghanistan or Iraq?

Problem is, as we learn more about the pilots the US asks to kill people from half a world away, we realize we're subjecting them to a totally different kind of psychological burden. Drone pilots get PTSD, yes, but they also live a totally bizarre life. One minute, they're quite literally fighting a war in the Middle East, the next, they're at a happy hour at an Outback Steakhouse or playing blackjack on the Vegas Strip or at their daughter's dance recital.

Maybe that drone medal wasn't such a bad idea, after all.

Good Kill and Grounded, a new movie and play starring Ethan Hawke and Anne Hathaway, respectively, take a look at the psychological toll of being a drone pilot. Motherboard talks with Hawke and director Andrew Niccol about the making of the film, its accuracy, and its importance as a first step toward showing Americans the brutal truth behind the targeted killing program.

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