Review by Bradley Smith
In 2013, director Dan Krauss released a documentary, also called The Kill Team, largely focused on the trial that followed the events upon which this fictional account is based. This time, Krauss goes back to the well to bring us a mildly suspenseful war movie with a reluctant hero stuck in an impossible situation where likely nobody would want to be. If you are the type of person that believes American Soldiers are infallible, you may want to find another movie or be prepared for a huge shocker. Based on actual events, the Kill Team dramatizes a low point in recent American military history by following one soldier surrounded by a team of soldiers and their “superior”/commanding officer as they gun down innocent civilians in Afghanistan. This lone soldier faces a moral dilemma of either going against his team and risking his life to bring them to justice or joining them and risking his freedom to avoid becoming another victim.
US Private Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff; The Naked Brothers Band, The Fault in Our Stars) is super excited to be going to war, shown at home practicing firing pretend weapons in his room in the immature manner that people tend to do when they have only seen war glamorized on film. But the harsh reality sets in when he gets to Afghanistan and his assignment is less “shooting bad guys” and more monotonous than he expected.
Things take a turn when a new commanding officer, Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård; Zoolander, True Blood), enters and begins testing the team’s morality and loyalty. While many are willing, if not eager, to go along with their new leader’s racist views and actions toward all middle easterners, Private Briggman tries to hold on to his humanity and contemplates reporting them. Soon, however, he fears for his safety when Deeks and the team begin questioning his loyalty. Practically in the middle of nowhere with limited outside support, Briggman must toe the line to survive.
This is a well-made “slice-of-life” movie. It shows the camaraderie of soldiers in the military before corruption seeps in. It touches on the horrors of war and provides discussion-worthy topics, though hopefully the war crimes were an isolated incident and soldiers committing atrocities are not commonplace in today’s military. Wolff and Skarsgård are a perfect fit for their characters, along with most of the rest of the cast. Apparently, that was an unrecognizable Rob Morrow (Numb3rs, Designated Survivor) playing Briggman’s father, from whom Briggman tries to seek advice/assistance. Krauss brilliantly follows up his 2013 documentary with what is essentially a prequel; names have been changed for this version, but they clearly have real-world counterparts.
I called the film “mildly suspenseful” earlier because it is a movie “based on true events”. Such movies, at least to me, rarely provide more than a cinematic “slice-of-life” view. But more than that, if this could be considered a prequel to the 2013 documentary, prequels are rarely suspenseful because you know where the characters are going to end up. So, a scene like the firing range stunt loses a little of its magic while still making the audience think and realize how much danger he *was* in. Despite these minor nitpicks, The Kill Team has its thrills and is definitely worth a look.
“In Theaters and On Demand October 25”
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