VOD film review: Kill Command
Ivan Radford | On 14, May 2016
Director: Steven Gomez
Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Thure Lindhardt, David Ajala, Tom McKay
Watch Kill Command online in the UK: Netflix UK / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Sky Store / iTunes / Rakuten TV / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Robots. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. That’s as true for the soldiers in combat in Kill Command as it is for the sci-fi genre in general. Androids are an inherently fascinating idea – which means there’s no end to the number of movies about them, be they classics (Blade Runner) or codswallop (Prometheus).
Unlike Ridley Scott’s expensive sequel, though, this low-budget thriller delivers on its mechanical promise. It helps that it places the walking computer in question right at the heart of the story: we’re flown into a training exercise with a group of humans, but our main character is Mills (Kirby), an enhanced trooper, who is there to observe and report… and what else?
The film wastes no time in revealing its big premise: that the exercise effectively pits man in the ring against a mild robotic uprising (yes, another one of them). Before you can dismiss the whole movie as derivative, though, director Steven Gomez already has you hooked with the machines themselves. A former visual effects supervisor, the filmmaker has a real knack for bringing non-humans to life; the creature design is superb, all rotating circles, glowing blue lights and metallic grids. They look like they’ve just walked out of a blockbuster shooting in the woods nearby and only get more impressive, as we see them interact with the rest of the ensemble.
The meatbags on-screen are broadly interchangeable, but Gomez nails the distrust and unease humans have for technology – his men aren’t just fighting for their lives against evil killing machines, but are also one of many industries watching their own jobs potentially being replaced by more efficient, programmable upgrades.
So where does that leave Mills? Kirby is brilliantly cool and ambiguous throughout, even as the CGI suggests that she might be not what she seems. Gomez keeps thing simple but suspenseful, allowing that basic mystery to fuel the whole narrative – one superb central set piece relies solely on the question of whether Mills can override the enemy, or whether they can override her. Her eyes offer intriguing hints of a moral dilemma – only for blue code to scroll across her iris, clouding them from view. If the strength of her characterisation means that you don’t care about the rest of the cast, it’s a sacrifice that pays off: Kill Command may not cover anything new, but this is a smart, slickly presented indie thriller with enough brain (and processor) power to elevate itself beyond its budget – and beyond many other movies with far bigger ones. Watch out for whatever Gomez does next. Especially if it involves robots.
Kill Command is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.