Kill Command (2016)
You can’t fight the future.
It’s interesting to ruminate on how cheaper and more accessible digital effects have made an impact on low budget sci-fi. Visual elements that would have made a Terminator-era James Cameron green with envy are now, if not easily, at least readily, available, giving any would-be Paul Verhoeven the opportunity to seed their SF-tinged actioner with all manner of military hardware. Sure, they all look more or less like Halo-clone videogames, but Halo looks more or less like Aliens (1986), and so we’re back to Jim Cameron again. Time is a flat circle. There is no fate, but what we make for ourselves.
The point is that Kill Command, aka Identify, the first feature film from FX-tech-turned-director Steven Gomez looks the business — especially in the opening movements before it settles down to being a robust but familiar run ‘n’ gun through a couple of different environments. Just like The Terminator (1984), the culprit behind all the mayhem is a dodgy Artificial Intelligence, which turns the safety protocols off when contending with your usual mixed bag squad of hardened space-grunts who think they’re on a training exercise.
They’re not, of course — that’s just cover. They’ve really been dispatched to the remote outpost where most of the action takes place as cover for corporate cyborg Katherine Mills (Vanessa Kirby, who cropped up in 2017’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout and can now be seen in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and probably more colon-centric franchises to follow), who has been sent to investigate what’s gone wrong in the computer-controlled facility. It seems a bit unfair; Captain Bukes (Thure Lindhardt) and the gang don’t have the faintest idea what hit them once the robot drones start racking up a body count.
The plot proceeds perfunctorily but suitably enough from there, as our salty grunts try and figure out what the score is while evading increasingly cunning robotic adversaries and wondering if Mills, whose body houses technology similar to the drones they’re fighting, might be entirely trustworthy. The ensemble is fairly generic, although sniper Rory Robinson (Bentley Kalu) displays a certain charisma and some palpable chemistry with Kirby’s Mills. Action fans and armchair Skynets will enjoy how surveillance drones and computer-assisted technology are employed on the battlefield, there are some impressive physical effects to complement the CGI (the robot OpFor are wonderfully realized), and we get the occasionally inspired kill — one scene, where a doomed squaddie man just makes out his own terrified reflection in the carapace of the droid about to slot him, is particularly effective.
And that’s your lot, more or less. Kill Command isn’t a particularly ambitious example of the sci-fi genre, but it colors in its chosen square completely and with appropriately machine-like efficiency. It won’t make the industry sit up and take notice the way Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009) or Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) did, but if you’re a fan of this sort of thing, this is well worth a spin.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Travis Johnson