Director Dan Krauss has found an interesting way of telling the complete story of a horrific true story. His 2013 documentary of the same name followed the trial of the infamous Maywand District murders that took place in Afghanistan. His new film is a dramatization of the murders themselves. Together, the two films paint a complete picture.
The film centers on Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff), a young recruit who watches the hatred grow in his squad until they begin straight-up murdering unarmed civilians. The event was shocking in real life but the film can help us understand how it happened. There is a mixture of entitlement, racism, and vengeance that propels the men to kill. There is also Sgt. Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård) who pushes the men and creates an acceptable environment for murder.
One can tell Krauss background in documentaries. There is a precision to what he shows and how he stages the action. You sense how important this story is for him to tell and to tell it accurately. The film plays out like a thriller a lot of the time because we are with Briggman and his growing refusal to participate. This only leads to him being ostracized from the group, alone in his morality.
Wolff and Skarsgård are strong in their roles but the acting never feels like the focus. Wolff, in particular, is able to fade into the role and become believable as a young soldier. Skarsgård struggles a bit more to hide his movie-star qualities. The rest of the cast of mostly unrecognizable faces helps to create a sense of realism.
The Kill Team falters a bit due to its lack of character development. We never truly understand everyone's individual motivations. This works in favor of making a point about groupthink but it doesn't lead to a dramatic arc. Similarly, the film's final act feels anti-climactic but also highlights the lack of justice for those who were murdered. The film seems so closely tied to the documentary of the same name that one doesn't work as well without the other. Still, the story here is too shocking and compelling to be missed. If you are not familiar with it, seek this one out.