DVD Review - The Kill Hole

Chadwick Boseman (left) and
Tory Kittles in "The Kill Hole"
Writer-director Mischa S. Webley has created one of the most responsible fictional films about PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, affecting soldiers coming back from the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. First, Webley beautifully integrates real soldiers who are part of a PTSD support group into this film. He simply allows them to talk about their feelings and experiences. Among these actual veterans, Webley sits his two main actors to be immersed and improvise naturally with them, which works very well.

Chadwick Boseman (42 and The Express) stars as Lieutenant Samuel Drake, a former soldier who now works as a taxi driver whose passengers treat him horribly. Drake doesn't seem to have any family or if he does, he's separated from them. Drake has no friends, aside from some fellow soldiers. He's mostly lonely, living in what looks like a crappy motel room.

Drake is a man dealing with a lot of guilt, more guilt than I've seen portrayed by a modern-day soldier. Some people might scoff at the idea of a soldier feeling guilt about these recent American wars. Some people continue to defend staunchly that these wars are justified, so there should be no guilt, but being that these wars have persisted longer than any other American war, that length breeds problems that can't or shouldn't be ignored.

One major issue that has sprung up as a result of these recent American wars in the Middle East is the issue of drone strikes. The United States has already built a reputation around the world as being imperialistic and looked upon as an invading and destructive or at least dominating force. Whether the U.S. is justified or not, it acts with no malice, but this reputation often assigns malice and drone strikes, especially ones that go wrong, only add fuel to the fire.

Because soldiers are the agents of the imperialism and invading forces, they're often the easy targets or scape goats. Presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama can always claim they're acting in the name of national security and fighting terrorists or evil-doers, and they never have to get their hands dirty. They never truly have to shoulder the true guilt.

The true guilt falls on soldiers like Drake. It's hinted that Drake committed an act of violence that was pretty egregious, earning him the nickname "fire-man." That act might be considered a war crime and it's never clear whether that act was one Drake performed alone or if it was an order that came from above him.

None of that matters because either way Drake feels guilt about it, and he perhaps knows that there's no route he can take to atone. At the PTSD group, he asks his sponsor Marshall, played by Billy Zane (Dead Calm and Titantic), basically if there's any way he can deal with this grief. Marshall says that they as soldiers did bad things but they're not bad people.

Marshall basically adopts what's referred to as the Nuremberg defense. It's a similar defense for the men on trial in the film A Few Good Men (1992). Essentially, the defense is the soldier isn't to blame for anything, even murder, because he's just following orders.

Drake isn't put on trial in this movie, at least not in a criminal court or even a military tribunal. He's put on trial by a fellow soldier, a marine by the name of Sgt. Devon Carter, played by Tory Kittles (Steel Magnolias and The Sapphires). Carter is a sniper that used to work for a contracting company but has now gone rogue. He threatens to go after members of the contracting company but first demands that Drake come to him. What Drake is told is that Carter is the one witness who knows about the possible war crime. For the first time, Drake has to face the horrors and true complexities of what he did and war did.

Webley opens with a gorgeous shot, a stunning frame of sunrise over a mountainous landscape. He pans over to a shack on stilts, an outpost that represents isolation and peace, as well as being a perfect perch for Carter to sit on high and stew. His narration is filled with judgment. Yet, there is poetry to him, a naturalism. It's a contrast to what he has to do as a soldier and what he wants to do now. Yet, somehow Carter has reconciled it, or so he says.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.


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