The Kill Team Movie Review
The Kill Team Movie Review Metadata
There’s a subtle intensity to director Dan Krauss’ feature film (developed from his documentary on the subject) that’s hard to shake. Selected for the 50th anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, The Kill Team is a wartime drama depicting the real-life events known as the Maywand District murders.
Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff) is an impressionable young soldier just joining the war effort in Afghanistan. His father is a veteran. He idolizes the soldier lifestyle. When his new Staff Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård) recognizes him as a potential team leader, Briggman is very eager to impress and make his father proud.
Deeks says early in the film, “We kill people. That’s what we do. Do you have a problem with that?” It’s a statement to condition his squad for the realities of war or at least Deeks’ assessment of it, an idea he further postulates by various forms of rhetoric and propaganda. His methods are sadistic – often pitting soldiers against each other. On Deeks’ command, the men beat a fellow soldier for snitching about weed. He essentially radicalizes his squadron, they would call themselves the “Kill Team”.
In their first assignment under Deeks’ command, Briggman discovers their leader is re-writing the rules of engagement. Deeks is extracting intelligence (about IED’s) from Afghan locals by murdering family members and planting evidence to cover-up the crime. The “Kill Team” would celebrate and take photos with their trophy human corpses. Briggman turns to his father for help, who in turn promises to contact the criminal investigation post of the Army, but Briggman is hesitant to “blow the whistle” on the atrocities as he’s terrified of Deeks and his accomplices. It’s a crisis of conscience and dilemma that eventually catches Briggman off-guard when he’s coerced into carrying out a murder himself.
The film ends abruptly with all involved parties in custody, but the psychological torture Briggman feels is felt long after exiting the theater. This can be attributed to the committed performances from both Wolff and Skarsgård. Wolff with his muted facial expressions that still manage to scream “help me” – swallowing fear and any air left in the room. Skarsgård using that imposing and towering frame to crowd out the room and command compliance from his subordinates. The cinematography, while not groundbreaking work by any stretch, wraps everything together neatly in the vast dusty desert of Afghanistan.
The Kill Team is an exceptional film, though I’m not convinced it’s on the road for any awards consideration. This is a movie very worthy of streaming when it becomes available.