'The Kill Team' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Nat Wolff, Alexander Skarsgård, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)
Overview: Based on a true story, 'The Kill Team' follows Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff), a young soldier in the US invasion of Afghanistan who witnesses other recruits killing innocent civilians under the direction of a sadistic leader, Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård).
Andrew considers reporting them to higher-ups, but the heavily armed, increasingly violent platoon becomes suspicious that someone in their ranks has turned on them — and Andrew begins to fear that he’ll be the next target.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Kill Team' is a standard-issue anti-war movie whose hero is faced with becoming a whistle blower and putting an end to the murderous activities of his squad in Afghanistan; or becoming part of the killing team.
As directed by Dan Krauss, who previously treated the same material to a documentary feature, we can identify with the kid put in a tough situation, but the real-life plot twist after the film's climax robs him of choice, making this just another slice-of-life reality downer.
However, there are many important issues raised along the way, especially how the military is designed to dehumanize young recruits in order to get them to carry out dangerous missions, as well as numerous side issues like bullying, indoctrination and even the strong effects of violent videogames on an impressionable youngster's psyche.
But the crisis of conscience at the center of the story is presented more like a rat in a trap than a potential profile in courage. Worse yet, the key scene involving the killing of an innocent old Afghani civilian is staged so poorly that I couldn't follow clearly exactly what happened; only to witness the hero becoming implicated in the evil around him.
Alexander Skarsgård is fine as the nominal villain of a ruthless squad sergeant, while Nat Wolff as the hero remains stoic throughout. It's a role reminiscent of many that Tom Courtenay delivered brilliantly in the '60s and '70s, ranging from 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' to 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' (his tortured expressions conveying his situational pain as perhaps no other actor could).
But even though we can vicariously, from the safety of our sofa seating far from war, identify with Wolff's Andrew Briggman, by film's end this is just another piece of escapism, in which the viewer can turn off the small screen, exhale, and thank God that they themselves never find themselves in Briggman's predicament. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• "The Reality of Courage: Making The Kill Team" Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Dan Krauss
A thrilling film, based on a true story, comes home when 'The Kill Team' arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital) and DVD December 24TH, 2019 from Lionsgate.
Official 'The Kill Team' Trailer