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Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Kill Team Movie Review

We have an early contender for best documentary for the year. Yes, it's early, but I am pretty sure that by the time the end of the year rolls around, Dan Krauss's "The Kill Team" will at the very least be among my top docs of 2013. If I turn out to be wrong, it will be a banner year for full-length documentaries.

Early in 2010, a group of United States Army soldiers in Afghanistan killed three innocent civilians. The murders were premeditated and were all done with the intention of having a viable excuse in place beforehand. The stories among the men were coordinated to a point that it all became rather simple to pull off. They came to be known as the Maywand District murders. The truth surfaced later that year and the way the facts entered the public sector is part of the convoluted story.

Krauss tackles the killings as a murder mystery, slowly unveiling the who, how and why of it all. His focus isn't solely confined to the actual heinous acts. He also examines the prevailing underlying culture among the troops and the confusion that lives within all wars.

The "star" of "The Kill Team" is Adam Winfield. He is the soldier at the hub of it all. Smallish and innocent-looking, Adam has witnessed the murders and what has led up to them. These are his friends, but as they drift into cruelty he becomes confused and worried. He joined up in the hopes of doing his duty and serving his country. His motives seem genuine.

We witness the electronic messages he sends to his father back in America. They show a confused young man who wants to do the right thing, but fears for his own life if he becomes a rat. His parents feel frozen. They want to help, but they are not sure how best to save their son. His father, a former Marine, does his best, but is unable to accomplish his goal.

Everything becomes far more complicated when Adam is along with the others on one of their crimes. He is not even certain if he has played a role in one of the murders. Other unrelated circumstances bring everything to light and now the story is leaking to the higher-ups.

From this point on we witness Adam with his parents and his lawyer going over pre-trial strategies on how to deal with the fact that Adam is now one of the defendants in the crimes. We also see the other soldiers interviewed in-depth. All present the story from their viewpoint, but there is very little of what you might expect. No one is self-deluded enough to claim they have done nothing wrong. Krauss handles these interviews perfectly, never attempting to tilt his audience in one direction or another. He leaves it up to us to decide.

In my opinion, "The Kill Team" is one of the best anti-war films I have seen. Krauss doesn't do it by preaching. He merely presents and sits back. The way everything is revealed to us is nothing short of gripping. Krauss wants us to understand that war is never as it is portrayed in fiction films. It is controlled chaos, played with very few rules. No, this is not earth-shattering news to any of us, but you would be hard-pressed to find a better way of conveying it than Krauss has done here.

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