For moviegoers who shy away from documentaries, filmmaker Dan Krauss remains resolute to get the story out of 21-year-old Adam Winfield, a U.S. soldier who witnessed atrocities committed by his platoon against Afghanistan civilians, that he’s turned his 2014 documentary “The Kill Team” into a feature film with the same title. The names have been changed but the story remains the same.
Nat Wolff plays the private who blows the whistle on his fellow soldiers who murdered innocent Afghan civilians under the command of the new sergeant played by the always mesmerizing Alexander Skarsgard.
Krauss establishes the close relationship between Andrew Briggman (Wolff) and his father William (Rob Morrow) from the beginning as the two share a quiet moment at home. “I’m proud of you,” said William to his son as the young private prepares to ship off to Afghanistan.
It’s 2009 and new Staff Sgt. Deeks (Skarsgard) is determined to find the terrorists behind the deaths of 24 American soldiers killed over the last year. As he rallies his platoon, Deeks explains, “Everyday, we don’t find them is another day an American soldier could come home in pieces.” It’s an inspiring speech that motivates the troops as the persuasive sergeant takes calculated steps to get the men behind him.
In another scene, Deeks busts his company smoking hash but instead of punishing the offenders he gives them advice on where to score better quality drugs. It’s the ultimate move to secure the platoon’s loyalty.
Skarsgard has a certain je ne sais quoi that lets him easily slide into the role of seducer or commander. It’s a hypnotic effect that the actor embraced fully as Eric Northman on HBO’s “True Blood” and benefits him here as Deeks. But Krauss seems to discount Skarsgard’s natural abilities by going out his way to make Deeks likable to his troops instead of someone they should fear.
First, Deeks lets them slide on smoking drugs, but then he’s seen cooking steaks and passing out porno mags to the troops to keep them happy.
The film is based on real events that became the 2014 documentary “The Kill Team” by Krauss who then decided to turn it into a feature film.
It helps to be familiar with the documentary going into this new feature especially in scenes like the one where Deeks shows Briggman a box containing a collection of fingers from the people he’s killed in Afghanistan. The scene feels melodramatic, but in real life, the accused sergeant did have a collection of fingers in which he planned to make into a necklace.
Wolff does a solid job as the whistleblower who uncovered the despicable crimes by his fellow sworn brothers, but Skarsgard is the driving force behind the film.
Despite the film’s flaws, “The Kill Team” is gripping and should be seen. I also highly recommend the documentary by Krauss that inspired this feature.