War does unimaginable things to a human mind; it can fundamentally change it by turning a good and kind person into an animal, yet keep the same nice person as he was, but with conflicting opinions. Indeed, for some war is a game of weapons and the number of kills identified. But what if those killed are just civilians who pay the ultimate price just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? “The Kill Team” was my last second decision to watch at the Tribeca Film Festival, and you will soon be able to realize it was the right one.
Based on true events, Andrew Briggman couldn’t be more proud to be part of a war his country leads. As a new recruit, he gladly takes the gun to join the US Army in Afghanistan’s Kandahar in 2009, believing it was the right thing to do. And he had no questions about it until the moment when he realizes being in a real war is not the same as the one he would imitate in his room, as this time he’s not only required to use a bullet but to take a life as well. When the new commanding officer Sergeant Deeks joins the division, the young man must face the dilemma of his life while he witnesses the illegal murdering of Afghani civilians in a cold-blooded manner by Sergeant Deeks.
“I want you to know how proud I am of you, Andrew…” begins William Briggman by trying to encourage his son, continuing, “… being part of something like this is a tremendous thing” he finishes. When we find Andrew on the battlefield, he is all happy about it. He realizes that he wants to be the hero he read about in books. However, when Sergeant Wallace dies right in front of him, he quickly realizes it is not going to be an easy ride, not at all. Three weeks later we meet Sergeant Deeks who replaces Wallace. “I am here long enough to learn we do not replace anyone here. I am here to lead. Plain and simple,” the commander says. But that leading part is what will turn Andrew into a whistleblower after realizing that Sergeant, above many things, is an executioner and a murderer who turns the entire division into a kill team.
Written and directed by Dan Krauss, “The Kill Team” is another important filmmaking piece that is not afraid to call out its own government, or illegal actions taking place in a war zone. Let’s face the reality, how many other countries would make the same film to discredit its own soldiers? This film is not about criticizing the army but rather highlighting that the juridical system will take all the needed actions to stop the killing of civilians. Does it happen often? We do not know. But one or three stories widely told are enough for us to believe in it.
In the end, “The Kill Team, sadly, captures that macho type of personality where manhood is being justified through killings. Just seeing soldiers how they celebrate the execution of an unarmed man is enough to feel disgusted. But that does not mean all of them were like that before. But as you know, there is always a certain trigger in a human brain that may switch off or on when it comes to becoming who they would not even know they could be. Indeed, criticizing “The Kill Team” characters is easy as it does not explain, and simply could not, why Andrew Briggman was the only one out of an entire team who begins questioning the morality of his commander’s actions. But knowing that one person, or this example alone, always makes a difference as it provides a comforting feeling – the truth will always come out, whether it’s naked or well-seasoned. It still will.