Director: Dan Krauss
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nat Wolff, Adam Long, Jonathan Whitesell, Brian Marc, Osy Ikhile, Rob Morrow, Anna Francolini, Oliver Ritchie
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Some Drug Use)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 24 October 2019
Synopsis: 2017 Academy Award nominated director Dan Krauss adapts his acclaimed documentary THE KILL TEAM into a taut, provocative thriller reminiscent of such classics as THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, THE CONVERSATION, and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. Based on dramatic true events, THE KILL TEAM tells the story of a young American soldier trapped between his conscience and his survival when members of his platoon carry out a murderous scheme in the desolate wasteland of Southern Afghanistan.
Everyone knows wars won’t bring happy endings, but why are they still happening around the world? The movie industry has churned out countless war films over the decades, and most of them remind us that wars not only bring about destruction, they can seriously damage the human soul.
In 2013, American filmmaker Dan Krauss directed The Kill Team, a documentary about the Maywand District murders during the War in Afghanistan. The killings took place over a year from June 2009 to June 2010, and at least three Afghan civilians were murdered by a group of US Army soldiers who referred to themselves as the “Kill Team”. Five members of the platoon were eventually charged for the murders and collecting their body parts as trophies. There were seven others who were charged for other crimes, including attacking the whistleblower.
The powerful feature documentary which explored the controversial topic took home the Independent Spirit Awards' Truer than Fiction Prize and Grand Jury Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Krauss returns five years later with a fictionalised adaptation of events based on his award winning work. This approach will appeal to viewers who are adverse to the storytelling style of documentaries. That, and the inclusion of familiar faces will draw a certain group of audiences deeper into the story – although some may argue that this takes away the authenticity of the actual real life events.
Whatever the case, Krauss has managed to tell a captivating story of how an individual’s morals are put to the test, no thanks to the effects of war. Private Andrew Briggman (a very convincingly worried looking Nat Wolff) becomes torn when his platoon mates take part in killing civilians in Afghanistan, under the ‘guidance’ of the charismatic Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård putting his good looks and hot bod to good use). When the idealistic solider wonders whether he should report this to the authorities, he begins to realise the danger he is in when the people around him begin suspecting his loyalties.
The 98 minute movie starts off with Briggman getting all excited being able to serve his country. He heeds advice and inspiration from his father played by Rob Marrow, who effortlessly displays dignity as a respectable figure. When things get rough out in the battlefield (it doesn’t help that the leader of the platoon is killed tragically early in the movie by an explosion), Deeks becomes a figure of authority whom young men look up to. This very much reminds us of the drowning incident which took place last year in a local fire station. What really went on behind the scenes? And how do seniors in a military unit influence the young ones?
Back to this film – the grittiness of the story is well captured through the cinematography, and the looming sense of desperation and helplessness will make you reflect on the horrors of war. Are humans built to withstand undergo this trial of passage? What defines morals, and are the stressful conditions of war justifiable for some appalling actions? These are difficult questions to answer, but essential for reflection.
(The compelling movie reminds you that the horrors of war are real, and may still be ongoing in this day and age)
Review by John Li