REVIEW: The Kill Team

6 03 2015

The Kill TeamThe Kill Team” takes place during the War in Iraq, but Dan Krauss’ documentary is not really about that conflict.  Most non-fiction films about American involvement in the Middle East try to take a more holistic view, contextualizing one story within a much broader frame of reference to argue the filmmakers’ thesis.  Krauss, on the other hand, simply tells a tale of humans and the society they construct around them.

His film opens with voiceovers of news allegations that of a “kill team” in Iraq that murdered for fun, and then it cuts to one of the men facing life in prison for a premeditated murder.  Krauss switches between Iraq and the courtroom effectively throughout the entire film, showing what led to the incidents in question as well as their consequences and repercussions in equal measure.  “The Kill Team” stays chiefly focused on the people directly involved in the killings under investigation and those immediately affected by it, and the film is all the better for maintaining such a tight, narrow scope.

The stark contrast between the battlefield and the courtroom provides a potent illustration of how morality is socially constructed.  What seems like a choice between following the rules and preserving your life becomes the ultimate catch-22.  The heart cannot help but break for Spc. Adam Winfield, who was the whistleblower for the unit, but not in the same way as Bradley/Chelsea Manning.  This soldier was motivated purely by what ought to be considered inarguable conscience as he strove to maintain a basic sense of humanity, and he faces punishment that devastates both he and his entire family.

The film might have benefitted from hearing the perspective of Gibbs, the sadistic military man responsible for intimidating soldiers into the mess depicted in “The Kill Team.”  But if anything Winfield and his comrades claimed about his actions is true, it is understandable why he would not want to speak in his own defense; simply put, his actions were indefensible.  A-3halfstars



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