Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
We look at 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' in a brand new episode of Ink & Paint - and don't forget to subscribe to our podcast!x
review, The Kill Team, The, Kill, Team, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Nat Wolff, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Long, Jonathan Whitesell, Brian Marc, Osy Ikhile, Dan Krauss, Action, Drama, Thriller

THE KILL TEAM

★★★

HAZY MORALITY IN THE FOG OF WAR

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Jake Watt
27th November 2019

Based on true events from 2009, writer-director Dan Krauss's 'The Kill Team' concerns a group of soldiers whose frustration and rage at the death of colleagues was channelled into a campaign of terror in the Kandahar countryside. Led and allegedly manipulated by a rogue commanding officer, the unit executed randomly selected villagers, framing them after the fact as insurgents by planting weapons next to their bodies and concocting false battle reports.

Krauss previously explored this subject with a 2013 documentary of the same title, which took a close look at the Maywand District murders. He's changed the names throughout, beginning with real-life Private Adam Winfield, fictionalised here as Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff, 'Hereditary'). We meet Briggman in the States, miming threats against imaginary Afghans. His father, William (Rob Morrow, 'Begin Again'), worked a desk job in the U.S. Marines, and his son mentions wanting a similar chance to make a positive difference. The film sets up Briggman as the audience's surrogate, an eager and sensitive recruit who observes his fellow soldiers' actions almost from an outsider's perspective. He doesn't smoke hash with his fellow soldiers, and he doesn't, like them, begrudge the locals their different traditions and language. He also doesn't relish the opportunity to fight and kill.

'THE KILL TEAM' TRAILER

'The Kill Team' opens with the death of the team's commanding officer, Sergeant Bruer, who is killed by an IED after instructing the men in his unit to wave to the Afghans and offer candy to children. After Bruer is killed, his unit is assigned a new commanding officer, Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård, who has played soldiers before in 'Battleship', 'Hold the Dark' and TV's 'Generation Kill'), an imposing, stone-faced figure who begins cultivating insecure attachments with the men under his command, bestowing and withdrawing favour (promotions, drugs, friendship) at a whim in order to make them dependent on his approval.

Deeks, the fictionalised version of the real commanding officer convicted of encouraging the young men to view all Afghans as animals, explains softly and plainly: "We kill people. That's what we do." Briggman averts his eyes, attempting to square the apparent truth of Deeks's warrior philosophy with the "hearts and minds" mission his unit had been sent out on by his previous commanding officer. 'The Kill Team' muddies things by giving us snapshots of a rural Afghan population whose hearts and minds are, as of 2009, very much not won over.

Deeks turns missions into hunts, compelling the men under his command to find an Afghan man to be shot. In these scenes, which frequently cut away from the actual act (Briggman stumbles across the men discussing their cover story over the body of a local man lying on the ground behind them), we can see echoes of police shootings and other American forms of authoritarian violence.

A story about toxic masculinity becomes less to do with bros with guns and more about how leadership in a small group can very easily be subverted, partially due to the absence of any authority from higher up.

The circle around Briggman tightens as the group of killers grow concerned that he will squeal on them. The lives of the villagers killed become of secondary concern, as suspense in 'The Kill Team' is increasingly driven by the question of whether Briggman will survive or be betrayed and murdered by his compatriots.

While director Krauss spent significant time with many of the real-life perpetrators for his documentary, the ringleader, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, refused to meet with him. For his feature film adaptation (and narrative film debut), Krauss decided to fictionalise how the unit was corrupted. 26-year-old Gibbs became the much older Deeks, who keeps pushing the limits of what the impressionable young men in his command would do for him (see: Tom Berenger as Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes in Oliver Stone's 'Platoon' or Sean Penn as Sergeant Tony Meserve in Brian De Palma's 'Casualties of War' for further reference). So a story about toxic masculinity becomes less to do with bros with guns and more about the increasingly sinister effects of groupthink and how leadership in a small group can very easily be subverted, partially due to the absence of any authority from higher up.

It's an interesting angle but, once Krauss hews back to the real-life events during the second half, these fictional and truthful elements sit uneasily alongside each other. One could also criticise the film for being relatively light in character development department, leaving the motivations of the key figures nebulous at best. Visually, it's striking but derivative: battle scenes are staged by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine with the same shaky handheld "urgency" as just about every other movie about American troops in the Middle East.

This all adds up to 'The Kill Team' falling into the large sub-category of thought-provoking but flawed modern war films set in the region, like Paul Greengrass' 'Green Zone', Alexandre Moors' 'The Yellow Birds', Nicolai Fuglsig's '12 Strong' and Doug Liman's 'The Wall'.

Still, Krauss's film depicts in stark terms the ways that war can strip souls of conscience, something made even more wrenching when viewed with the knowledge that it's based on horrific true events.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 1h 27m
CAST: Nat Wolff
Alexander Skarsgård
Adam Long
Jonathan Whitesell
Brian Marc
Osy Ikhile
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Dan Krauss
PRODUCERS: Marty Bowen
Wyck Godfrey
Adrian Guerra
Isaac Klausner
SCORE: Zacarias M. De La Riva
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
Rosemary & Thyme: The Complete Collection - Mystery thriller series featuring the gardening detectives
TRENDINGWIN ROSEMARY & THYME: THE COMPLETE COLLECTIONMystery thriller series featuring the gardening detectives
Brideshead Revisited: The Complete Series - The classic novel adapted with a distinguished ensemble cast
TRENDINGWIN BRIDESHEAD REVISITED: THE COMPLETE SERIESThe classic novel adapted with a distinguished ensemble cast
Waterloo - An epic recreation of the legendary battle
TRENDINGWATERLOOAn epic recreation of the legendary battle
In My Blood It Runs - An eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
TRENDINGIN MY BLOOD IT RUNSAn eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
Standing Up For Sunny - A comedy without the comedy but very sweet
TRENDINGSTANDING UP FOR SUNNYA comedy without the comedy but very sweet
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage - The good, the bad and the ugly
TRENDINGxXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEThe good, the bad and the ugly
Sorry, Wrong Number - An inventive slice of 1940s film noir
TRENDINGSORRY, WRONG NUMBERAn inventive slice of 1940s film noir
Scoob! - Mystery swapped for money-hungry mayhem
TRENDINGSCOOB!Mystery swapped for money-hungry mayhem
I Married A Monster From Outer Space - The world Blu-ray debut of a 1950s sci-fi curio
TRENDINGI MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACEThe world Blu-ray debut of a 1950s sci-fi curio
Over the Limit - A real-life psychological thriller
TRENDINGOVER THE LIMITA real-life psychological thriller
Double Lover - Softcore pornography for cinephiles
TRENDINGDOUBLE LOVERSoftcore pornography for cinephiles
Proxima - An earthbound drama about motherhood
TRENDINGPROXIMAAn earthbound drama about motherhood
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Romantic Road - Falling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
TRENDINGROMANTIC ROADFalling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
Sleeping Beauty - A history of Disney's masterpiece on its 60th anniversary
TRENDINGSLEEPING BEAUTYA history of Disney's masterpiece on its 60th anniversary
I Still Believe - Faith romantic drama misses every demographic
TRENDINGI STILL BELIEVEFaith romantic drama misses every demographic
Basic Instinct - 25 years of the erotic thriller
TRENDINGBASIC INSTINCT25 years of the erotic thriller
Abe - Fusing food for peace and harmony
TRENDINGABEFusing food for peace and harmony
Buffy - A 20th anniversary love letter
TRENDINGBUFFYA 20th anniversary love letter
© 2011 - 2020 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us