‘The Kill Team’: a limited, chilling look at Afghan murders
A review of “The Kill Team,” a documentary that looks into the events of the Maywand District murders in Afghanistan. It focuses on a soldier with a platoon from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who apparently wanted to stop the killings. The film got 2.5 stars out of 4.
San Francisco Chronicle
Movie Review ★★½
‘The Kill Team,’ a documentary directed by Dan Krauss. 79 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Varsity.
The soldiers involved in the “The Kill Team” didn’t execute innocents out of fear or response to a threat. The premeditated killings of Afghanistan civilians appeared to have been born out of boredom and monotony — and a level of apathy that is shocking.
That’s the most chilling take-away from the documentary, which features interviews with soldiers directly involved with the murders, and the whistle-blowing attempts that followed.
The scope of the film can be frustratingly narrow. But even this limited view into the events of the Maywand District murders is gripping cinema.
Director Dan Krauss centers the film on Adam Winfield, a soldier with a platoon from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who apparently wanted to stop the murders, and was ultimately charged as a perpetrator. The overall tone is sympathetic toward Winfield, who we learn in the mostly chronological narrative has a much more complicated relationship to the crimes than is initially suggested.
Krauss interviewed two more of the alleged killers, plus the soldier who brought the murders to the attention of military leaders.
Photos and a few videos shot by members of the platoon add context.
Krauss effectively captures the soldiers’ mindset during the killings, told mostly with frank and jarringly sober accounts.
Army specialist Jeremy Morlock, who was accused of some of the most horrible crimes, is especially memorable for his lack of an emotional delivery. Even for those who have heard the story, the details of a platoon leader’s collection of human remains as “trophies” is chilling — in large part because so few in his company could see it was wrong.
As “The Kill Team” continues, the perspective starts to feel limited. Krauss includes one too many scenes focusing on the suffering of Winfield’s parents; notable because the families of the murdered men aren’t represented. The documentary also touches on the responsibility of the platoon’s superiors and the effects of the actions on international relations but doesn’t explore either complicated theme in detail.