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Review: Kill Command – “Predator meets The Terminator”

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Kill-Command-Vanessa-Kirby

If you ever wanted to see the plot of two Arnie classics collide like two giant biceps, then lo and behold Kill Command. Predator meets The Terminator in this film about a squad of non-specific future marines who go into the woods on a basic training exercise and somehow become the target of killer robots. With a title reminiscent of a retro 1980’s video game, the film has a similar intellectual ambition. This is certainly nostalgic for Reaganite cinema, homesick for aforementioned films of the 1980’s and baring all the technophobic and militaristic sheen of that popular aesthetic. Killing and commanding are the chief motives here.

Kill Command wisely plays it straight and also accepts its budgetary and narrative limitations. By not stretching the budget or trying to make the production look like it was funded by Jerry Bruckheimer, the film establishes its own playing field. This was a smart decision. When a helicopter chockfull of our characters lands on an isolated island camp, the pilot days “2 days” and flies away. With that, we know we have a contained setting ripe for disaster, an effective time-frame and some characters with guns and explosives. We can sit back knowing that what happens from now will be simple pleasures: some creepy spider-robots with a penchant for dismemberment and sniper rifles, a bit of cat-and-mouse, a lovely siege and some one-liner tough guys with big guns. A few narrative twists and turns even occur (avoid the trailer if you want to maintain the integrity of these developments).

Director Steve Gomez is an award winning visual effects artist and, apparently, a pal of Gareth Edwards. Like Gareth did with his own directorial debut Monsters, the shoestring-budget CGI here is surprisingly effective. Even today, this is not something one associates with low-budget films. Gomez has fashioned a certifiable genre pic and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to speculate that he will follow a similar career path to Edwards, who used his genre-cred and resourceful filmmaking style to tackle Godzilla and the upcoming Rogue One. Yes, the events in Kill Command are predictably predicable and rudimentary, but they are also proficient and entertaining. One may even speculate that the idea of robots replacing humans in warfare is an attempt to intellectualise the proceedings through a drone allegory. This is admirable but overly-ambitious when the films morality is about as unblemished as The Punisher’s. Watching shit blow up makes better sense.

All the cast are perfectly serviceable in their roles. Bentley Kalu, whose physique has been cast in roles such as ‘Klaue’s Mercenary’ in Avengers: Age of Ultron and ‘Dog Soldier 4’ in Edge of Tomorrow, is the charismatic standout. Here Kalu is able to showcase his spirited personality in his role as a muscular black sidekick with big arms and a big gun. He’s a badass, and you want to see him alive at the end. Thure Lindhart, as the squad leader Captain Bukes, is fine but somewhat forgettable. He’s supposed to be the moody Eastwood-type, but he lacks Atlas-like charisma of a Schwarzenegger to hold the film aloft. His character has a grudge against technology, but it’s about as interesting as the one your grandparents have. Vanessa Kirby is the standout as “Mills”, a robotically enhanced gynoid. The sexy-fembot is a genre convention fan-boys often get behind, but her performance is also imbued with a surprising degree of complexity, strength and equal vulnerability. Alongside Jupiter Ascending and T.V’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, it’s not too much of a stretch to image her attending comic conventions and becoming the next sci-fi pin-up girl.

Kill Command is a video game adaptation of a video game that doesn’t exist. Memories of my techno-militaristic adventures committing virtual genocide against robots and aliens in Mass Effect and Halo transpired more than once in this critic’s mind. So the nostalgia works. This is all fun and games, one that invites you to sit back and enjoy the silly spectacle.

 

3-out-of-5

Kill Command opens in the UK on 13th May 2016.

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One Comment

  1. Despite it borrows from everywhere,”Kill Command” still manages to find its own voice. It leaves a good aftertaste.

    Of all low budget sci-fi about AI and robots, this and probably ”The Machine” are the best.

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