"The Truth May Get You Killed, But Lies Will Make You Lose Everything Else"
What You Need To Know:
THE KILL TEAM has some superb elements, including creative cinematography, lots of suspense and jeopardy and great acting. However, it has excessive foul language and extreme violence. More of a problem is the movie’s Romantic worldview, which ultimately blames the soldiers’ environment and their country for the bad they do. At one point, THE KILL TEAM even blames the soldiers’ actions on a government conspiracy. Ultimately, however, all the soldiers made a personal choice to murder, including the one who tries to blow the whistle.
Based on a 2013 documentary by the same name, THE KILL TEAM is a fictionalized account of an American platoon in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban who started killing innocent civilians for sport, and the soldier who tried to stop them. THE KILL TEAM is well made, with plenty of suspense, jeopardy and great acting, but it has excessive foul language and violence and a strong Romantic worldview that blames the soldiers’ environment and their country for the bad things they do.
The movie opens with a boyish looking young man, Private Andrew Briggman, eagerly heading for war under the proud gaze of his father. Briggman begins his military tour in Afghanistan in the region of Kandahar, with a handful of soldiers from the Fifth Stryker Brigade. The platoon’s sergeant is killed by an IED. Sergeant Deeks, who is played by Alexander Skarsgard, arrives as his replacement. The soldiers aren’t sure what to think of Deeks as he commands with an eerie coolness. Deeks appoints Private Briggman as the platoon’s team leader. The only condition is that he must wrestle his fellow soldier into submission on his back, in order to show he’s capable of leadership. Briggman struggles briefly with the proposition, but quickly acquiesces and knocks the man down.
Briggman is proud of his new leadership position and carries out his duties religiously. His unwillingness to do drugs with his platoon earns him the attention of Sergeant Deeks. Deeks, who wants to test him further, takes him to a shed where he keeps a bound Afghan prisoner and asks Briggman to torture the prisoner. After some contemplation, Briggman refuses. Deeks pats him on the head and tells him he’s a “good boy.” Briggman begins to suspect there’s something seriously wrong with Deeks.
Upon further observation, Briggman realizes his sergeant sets up innocent, unarmed citizens as terrorists and kills them. Briggman makes a firm statement that killing unarmed civilians is wrong. When confronted, Deeks justifies his actions by explaining that the victims are not only sympathizers with terrorists, they are most likely going to commit terrorist activities themselves. Therefore, by killing them, he’s removing a future threat to American soldiers.
As time passes, Briggman begins to notice his entire platoon is bloodthirsty. Under the encouragement of their sergeant, they enthusiastically hunt down and kill innocent people. What’s worse is that the sergeant and his cohorts mutilate and cut off their victims’ body parts to keep as trophies. Seemingly convicted, Briggman writes to his dad at home and tells him of the murders. Once his own life is threatened, however, he drops the idea of bringing the murderers to justice. In fact, over time, he becomes a murderer too.
THE KILL TEAM is a war movie without a hero. To anyone who believes that murder is wrong, it is very clear that no one in this story is a hero. The problem with the movie’s premise is that it tries to assert that these soldiers are somehow victims, though it’s unclear how, why and by whom they are victims. The account is questionable because it is suspiciously fiction based on a real-life account and a previous documentary by the same filmmaker. This situation may itself be seen as proof that the real-life event doesn’t make the same politically correct assertions that the director and writer here wants to make.
There are some subtle messages of a widespread conspiracy of the U.S. government in an unjust war. That’s hard to prove. While it’s true that the sergeant in command ordered soldiers to commit crimes in some of the cases, soldiers are under no obligation to follow unjust orders. Also, there were many American soldiers in Afghanistan who killed Afghan Taliban members because the Taliban burned women alive or killed entire families for educating their daughters. Some soldiers killed terrorists who wiped out hundreds of lives with their IEDs.
Another subtle message woven into the plot is that war itself brings out a “kill for sport” instinct. There is definitely some evidence to give this idea serious consideration. However, in a just war, soldiers fight against tyranny and those who would take away people’s rights, freedom and very lives. The idea that war turns every soldier into an animal doesn’t give proper credit and honor to soldiers who believe they’re fighting a just war against Muslim terrorists who torture and kill anyone who doesn’t support their ideology.
THE KILL TEAM tries to rationalize inexcusable crimes by placing blame on other factors, instead of on the murderers themselves. Perhaps it’s an attempt to dissect what made or coerced this young cluster of men to torture and murder innocent people. This kind of dissection can be done on any killer, but it doesn’t change the fact that murder is still murder. The viewer is nuanced into thinking that Briggman becomes a murderer because of exterior factors. The higher part of humanity tells us that he made a choice to kill, even though he had once said that killing innocent Afghans was wrong.
If there are exterior factors, we must seriously look at all of our societal cultural factors, such as violence as portrayed as entertainment in media and gaming, as well as the devaluation of people as a whole through such means as abortion and euthanasia. The real story about “the kill team” is this handful of soldiers who conspired to commit heinous crimes against humanity were brought to justice by the United States government and rightly punished. This in no way implies that they can’t find redemption. In the eyes of Jesus Christ, no one is beyond redemption. That would be a better story. The movie should not be looking back at who or what made these soldiers kill innocent people or trying to rationalize why Briggman also became a murderer. Rather, a great story would be about the repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ for the soldiers, and how the soldiers will give back to society to make up for what they have taken away.
Ideological flaws aside, THE KILL TEAM has some spectacular elements technically, as well as great acting, gripping suspense and creative cinematography. The movie contains lots of war-related violence, excessive swearing and some politically correct Anti-American sentiment. The movie’s Romantic worldview ultimately blames the soldiers’ environment and their country for the bad things they do.