"The Kill Team" is a chilling documentary that chronicles a shameful and horrific chapter in recent American military history: Producer-director Dan Krauss presents a concise, clear-eyed account of the rogue platoon of U.S. soldiers who, in 2010, were involved in the "sport" killings of three random Afghan civilians.
The story is told largely through the nightmarish lens of Army Spc. Adam Winfield, the Kill Team's sacrificial lamb, who unsuccessfully tried to alert the military via e-communiques with his Marine Corps veteran father. But when faced with retribution by his squad leader — the architect of the killing spree, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, prosecutors have said — Winfield "played along" and, he has said, participated only peripherally in the third civilian death.
Winfield's squadmates Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, who both helped Gibbs with the murders, are extensively interviewed here; Morlock, in particular, proves disturbingly brash. So-called whistleblower Pfc. Justin Stoner, who was not charged with any crimes, also offers edgy testimony.
The indicted soldiers' eventual prison sentences provide the film with mystery and urgency so are best left undisclosed in this space. But the fairness — or seeming lack thereof — of Winfield's fate effectively drives much of the story's narrative.
Krauss combines powerful interview clips with said soldiers, Winfield's devastated parents and their son's no-nonsense lead defense attorney, along with photos and video bits of the Kill Team "in action." It all adds up to a harrowing picture of the casualties of war — and the unchecked madness that may drive those entrusted to defend us.
"The Kill Team."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.
Playing: At Landmark's Nuart, West Los Angeles.